Over 280,000 Muslims said to visit Al-Aqsa Monday for key Ramadan night

Worshipers celebrate Laylat Al Qadr at Old City compound; event passes without police intervention, though Hamas terror group flags were reportedly unfurled by some visitors

Palestinian Muslim worshipers pray during Laylat Al Qadr, also known as the Night of Destiny, in front of the Dome of the Rock, in the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City, April 17, 2023. (Mahmoud Illean/AP)
Palestinian Muslim worshipers pray during Laylat Al Qadr, also known as the Night of Destiny, in front of the Dome of the Rock, in the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City, April 17, 2023. (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

Over a quarter of a million Muslims visited the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on Monday night to mark a key date in the Ramadan holy month, officials at the site said.

After last month saw violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police officers at the flashpoint holy site, the latest event passed without incident.

According to the Islamic Waqf, which administers the site, some 280,000 people in total entered the Temple Mount compound for prayers during Laylat Al Qadr, also known as the Night of Destiny. Police said that the crowds peaked at 130,000 inside the compound at any one time.

The Haaretz daily reported that some of those who arrived unfurled Palestinian national flags and flags of the Hamas terror group and chanted nationalist slogans. Police did not intervene and prayers passed without violence or arrests.

Tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians were granted special permits to enter Israel so that they could attend the prayers.

Laylat Al Qadr is marked on the 27th day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan and is commemorated as the night the Prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Quran. Muslims traditionally spend the night in prayer and devotion.

The large crowds topped Friday’s figures, when 250,000 were estimated to have entered the Temple Mount.

Friday’s prayers also passed largely without incident, though police said they detained eight Palestinians for chants inciting violence and waving flags belonging to terror groups.

Over one million Muslims visited the Temple Mount — known to them as the Noble Sanctuary — throughout the entire holy month of Ramadan.

Tens of thousands Muslim worshippers pray near the Dome of the Rock in the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 17, 2023. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

The security situation has been fraught in recent weeks. Several terror attacks have taken place in the West Bank, including one in which an Israeli mother and her two daughters were killed while driving in the Jordan Valley.

Tensions in and around Jerusalem’s Old City have been high, in particular during the overlap of the Passover and Ramadan holidays and amid repeated clashes between security forces and worshipers atop the Temple Mount. Passover ended in Israel last Wednesday.

On April 4, police said that several hundred Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the mosque with explosive devices, rocks and fireworks in order to target Israeli civilians and security forces.

Israel says police were left with no choice but to enter the mosque in order to overpower the rioters but several people inside captured footage of officers beating and apprehending Palestinians, which went viral on social media and sparked massive uproar around the globe. Hamas responded by firing several barrages of rockets at Israel from both Lebanon and Gaza, leading to Israeli retaliatory airstrikes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced last week that Jews and other non-Muslims would be barred from visiting the Temple Mount during the last 10 days of Ramadan, in an effort to head off violence.

Recent years have seen a massive uptick in Jewish visitors to the site along with a quiet but well-documented shift in police policy to allow hushed Jewish prayer.

The developments have intensified long-held claims by Palestinians and Arab countries that Israel is violating the Temple Mount status quo — an accusation Israel vehemently denies.

While the decision to bar Jewish visitors was in line with longstanding Israeli policy aimed at limiting friction during the holiday period, there had been speculation that the new hardline government would change course, with far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir pushing to allow Jews to continue ascending the Temple Mount through the end of Ramadan.

The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary, is the holiest place for Jews as the site of the two ancient Jewish temples, and Al-Aqsa is the third-holiest shrine in Islam.

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