Israel to deploy thousands of police in Jerusalem for Friday prayers

Last week, the Israel PM’s office had said that Muslim worshipers would be allowed to access the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Jerusalem:

Israel’s police force said it would deploy thousands of officers to Jerusalem’s Old City for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque amid tensions amid the Gaza war.

“We are ready for Friday prayers with more police officers. Thousands of them will be in the area of ​​the Temple Mount,” police spokeswoman Mirit Ben Meir told reporters, using the Jewish name for the Al-Aqsa Mosque site.

He said hundreds of police officers had already been deployed in the Old City of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem since Ramadan began on Monday.

Ben Mayer said more than 25,000 worshipers have come to the mosque for prayers without incident during the Muslim fasting month.

“We will do everything to maintain calm this Ramadan,” he told a news conference.

Asked about clashes that reportedly broke out between police and worshipers on Sunday, government spokeswoman Tal Heinrich said: “We are on high alert”.

“It’s no secret that extremists, terrorist organizations like Hamas and (Palestinian) Islamic Jihad are trying to inflame the region,” he told a news conference.

Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Muslim worshipers would be allowed access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the first week of Ramadan, as in previous years.

“The situation will be assessed every week in terms of safety and security and decisions will be taken accordingly,” it said.

Police said in a statement that Palestinians coming to Al-Aqsa from the occupied West Bank may face some restrictions.

Government spokesman Ofir Gendelman said “for security reasons” only men aged 55 and older and women aged 50 and over from the region would be allowed to enter the mosque complex.

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir recently called for tougher restrictions on Palestinian residents of the West Bank, saying they “should not be allowed” to enter Jerusalem to pray during Ramadan.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, and although its management technically falls under the authority of Jordan, Israel imposes restrictions in and around the complex.

There are frequent clashes between Muslim worshipers and Israeli security forces at this site.

Ramadan this year comes with Israel engaged in a devastating war with the Palestinian Hamas group in the Gaza Strip.

The war broke out after an October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israeli retaliatory military strikes have since killed at least 31,184 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s health ministry, the majority of whom are women and children.

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