Ramazan prayers held at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa, with Israeli restrictions

Published April 16, 2021
A Palestinian woman prays in front of the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramazan, as Covid-19 restrictions ease in Israel, April 16. — Reuters
A Palestinian woman prays in front of the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramazan, as Covid-19 restrictions ease in Israel, April 16. — Reuters
Palestinian men pray in front of the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramazan, as Covid-19 restrictions ease in Israel, April 16. — Reuters
Palestinian men pray in front of the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramazan, as Covid-19 restrictions ease in Israel, April 16. — Reuters

Tens of thousands of Muslims flocked to Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque on the first Friday of Ramazan, but worshippers were angered by Israeli restrictions that denied access to West Bank Palestinians without Covid-19 vaccination documents.

From early morning, Palestinian residents of cities such as Bethlehem and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank lined up at Israeli checkpoints to have their entry permits and vaccination status examined before being admitted to Jerusalem.

Other worshippers from East Jerusalem and Arab cities in Israel had easier access, as they are included in Israel's world-beating vaccination rollout.

The restrictions were criticised by Palestinian officials. Ikrima Sabri, who led Friday prayers, accused Israel of "exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to intervene in the affairs of the blessed Aqsa mosque" and the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said Israel turned Jerusalem's Old City into a "military base".

But Israeli officials said they restricted to 10,000 the number of vaccinated Palestinians entering from the West Bank because of “high morbidity rates” from the coronavirus in Palestinian Authority areas.

"The measures are being taken to allow freedom of worship and religion on one hand, and on the other hand, prevent to the extent possible the spread of Covid-19 in the region," said a statement from COGAT, Israel's military liaison to the Palestinians.

Al Aqsa Mosque is one of the most sensitive sites in the Middle East conflict. It sits atop the Old City plateau known to Muslims worldwide as Al Haram Al Sharif, or The Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as Har ha-Bayit, or Temple Mount.

Israel captured and occupied it along with the rest of East Jerusalem in a 1967 war, later annexing it.

Israel regards the whole of Jerusalem as its capital and the centre of the Jewish faith. But Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, and Muslims regard Al Aqsa as the third holiest site in Islam, behind Makkah and Madina.

The pandemic has added a medical fault line to the religious and political ones: Israel has inoculated more than half its population, but the Palestinians' programme lags far behind.

Palestinians and rights groups accused Israel of ignoring its duties as an occupying power.

After the criticism, Israel extended its vaccination campaign to Palestinians working in Israel or its West Bank settlements, but the Israeli government says that under the Oslo peace accords, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the areas where it has limited self-rule.

Despite the tensions, the noonday prayers passed without serious incident, as Jerusalem shows signs of returning to normal after a year of lockdowns and restrictions.

Opinion

Blurred boundaries
Updated 10 May 2021

Blurred boundaries

Karachi’s administration and provincial agencies have taken measures that hit the urban poor on a continuous basis.
Sequencing IMF reforms
10 May 2021

Sequencing IMF reforms

It is clear that the revival of and rise in economic growth is becoming a concept alien to the IMF.
‘Darlings of the court’
09 May 2021

‘Darlings of the court’

The public deserves to see and learn from the process by which Justice Isa won after having nearly lost.

Editorial

10 May 2021

Safe havens

THE pull-out of foreign forces from Afghanistan has security ramifications for that country as well as neighbouring...
10 May 2021

Important bills

AT last, there is some movement on critical legislation that appeared to have been put on the back-burner. The...
Al Aqsa clashes
Updated 10 May 2021

Al Aqsa clashes

US policy remains wedded to blind support for the Jewish state.
Updated 09 May 2021

Sharif mission aborted

THE government is in no mood to let PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif leave the country. The opposition leader was...
09 May 2021

Amazon opportunity

THE decision by global e-commerce giant Amazon to add Pakistan to its sellers’ list is expected to unleash ...
09 May 2021

PCB’s parental policy

THE Pakistan Cricket Board’s announcement of its parental support policy earlier this week is praiseworthy, for...