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Thousands offer Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque despite Israeli curbs
Saturday July 13, 2013 7:04 PM, IINA

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Sheikh Mohammed Hussein said that some 135,000 Palestinian worshipers succeeded in reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem for the Friday prayers of the blessed month of Ramadan despite Israeli restrictions.

Hussein said that "the worshipers reached Al-Aqsa Mosque despite the strict Israeli measures at the military checkpoint surrounding the occupied city of Jerusalem."

Since the early hours of Friday morning, thousands of Palestinian from across the northern West Bank cities, Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarm, and Jenin gathered at the Qalandyah crossing, north of Jerusalem, Al-Aizariyah crossing to the east of Jerusalem and 'Rachel' checkpoint to the south of the city waiting in long-crowded rows to be allowed entry.

Israel announced that during Ramadan, Palestinians from the West Bank aged 45 or older may freely enter Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray on Fridays. Men between the ages of 35-45 will need a permit from Israeli security authorities.

The ministry added that Palestinians between the ages of 35-60 will need permits to visit the city during the week. It added that women of all ages can enter the city freely.

Arab Palestinians inside Israel and those living in East Jerusalem do not face restrictions in visiting the mosque compound, the place where the Palestinian uprising began in 2000. But since then, Palestinians from the West Bank have had an increasingly difficult time entering Jerusalem. With occasional exceptions, Palestinians from the Gaza Strip cannot get permission to visit the city.

The Israeli Army Radio said that thousands of police and border guards were spread throughout the city, at border crossings, in East Jerusalem, and in the Old City. Traffic officers directed hundreds of cars and buses in East Jerusalem to regulated parking areas.

Hussein said that "the Israelis are saying that they eased restrictions in the blessed month of Ramadan but tens of thousands were barred from reaching Al-Aqsa for prayers."

Meanwhile, the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage said that the Old City's roads and allies saw heavy crowd due to Israeli measures.

The foundation added that thousands of worshipers attended the dawn prayer at the complex to avoid the strict Israeli measures. The development comes as a new Israeli poll found that one-third of Israeli Jews want to rebuild the second temple on the ruins of the Al-Aqsa Mosque Complex.

The Israeli daily Haaretz said that when the poll, commissioned by the Joint Forum of Temple Mount Organizations, asked Israeli Jews, "Are you for or against erecting a Temple on the Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa Mosque Complex)?" 30 percent answered in the affirmative, while 45 percent were against and 25 percent said they were not sure.

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