AMMAN: An estimated 15,000 Palestinian worshippers flocked to Al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers, one month after the Israeli authorities banned entry due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Al-Aqsa’s preacher and the head of the Higher Islamic Committee, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, who had been barred for four months in June, was able to attend the Friday prayers. He told Arab
News that the situation was back to normal. “All gates were open today and the Israelis allowed worshipers access to the mosque,” he said. Sheikh Sabri had issued calls to Muslims who could attend Friday prayers.
Hijazi Risheq, the head of the Jerusalem merchants committee, told Arab News that for the first time in weeks Israeli soldiers allowed entry to Islam’s third holiest mosque.
He said: “No Israeli soldiers were seen at the entrance of Jerusalem’s old city, allowing free access to the walled city, but some Palestinian youth with West Bank ID were prevented access to the mosque.”
Palestinians from inside Israel were among those reaching Jerusalem for the weekly Friday prayers.
Risheq told Arab News that the past week had been difficult for the city’s business community.
“During last week we witnessed an unprecedented and nasty campaign by the Israeli occupation forces against the merchants and residents of the city of Jerusalem. Shopkeepers were fined exorbitant violations of 5,000 shekels ($1,500) and any clients at the shops were also fined 500 shekels.”
Rizeq said that there appeared to be miscommunication and contradictions in the orders and guidance by the Israeli forces — “all at the expense of the merchants and residents of the city.”
The prevention of entry to the old city was a combination of the Jewish holidays and the lockdown due to the coronavirus, Palestinians told Arab News.
The Jerusalem Waqf Council had issued a six-point guide to worshippers giving medical advice about social distancing and about bringing their own prayer rugs, and recommended that older Muslims stay away from Al-Aqsa for their own protection.
Miki Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, confirmed the prayers for Muslims. “The Temple Mout (Al-Aqsa) was open on Friday and the prayers took place in a regular and quiet manner,” he told Arab News.