Some 200,000 Muslims attended Eid al-Fitr holiday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque to cap off the Ramadan holy month on Monday afternoon, according to the Islamic Waqf.
“There were more worshipers than we’ve seen for Eid al-Fitr prayers in many years,” Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, the holy site’s chief imam, said in a phone call.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and reflection observed by Muslims worldwide. For Palestinian Muslims, worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque — the third-holiest site in Islam — is a central part of the festival. Jews revere the same hilltop as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in their tradition.
In recent years, Ramadan has often been marked by clashes and high tension between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Temple Mount has emerged as an incendiary battleground; last May, violence between Palestinians and Israeli forces at the sacred site helped spark a war between Israel and Hamas terrorists.
The Israeli army eased some restrictions on movement for West Bank Palestinians in advance of this year’s holiday to allow women, children and some men to pray at Al-Aqsa without permits. But the policy had returned to the status quo as of Monday, a Defense Ministry spokesperson said.
Al-Kiswani said most of those who arrived to pray were likely Jerusalemites. He attributes the high turnout to recent clashes at the sacred hilltop, as well the uptick in visits by Jews to the holy site.
“People wanted to send a message that Al-Aqsa is the inviolate right of Muslims,” al-Kiswani said.
אין יותר הולם מלסיים את חודש רמדאן בסימן חמאס תופס נוכחות בהר הבית מאשר עם שלט ענק של חמאס בהר הבית (לרגל החג) pic.twitter.com/TZVrTocSnT
— Nurit Yohanan (@nurityohanan) May 2, 2022
April saw repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at the site, with Palestinians hurling stones at officers on several occasions. Israeli forces responded with sponge-tipped bullets, tear gas and sound grenades, injuring hundreds.
While the majority of Palestinians attended Friday prayers peacefully and dispersed, others gathered and chanted slogans declaring loyalty to the Hamas terror group.
On Monday, Palestinians unfurled a massive pro-Hamas poster over the archways leading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque inside the compound, conveying the terror group’s wishes for a happy Eid al-Fitr.
Police later announced the arrest of an East Jerusalem Palestinian in his twenties on suspicion that he had hung the Hamas banner.
“We take every act of incitement, threats, support for or identification with terrorist organizations seriously,” police said in a statement.