JERUSALEM (AA) – For the sixth consecutive week, Israeli authorities imposed tight restrictions on Palestinians, banning them from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem for Friday prayers, leaving the mosque all but empty.
An official with the Waqf Department in Jerusalem said that only around 4,000 Palestinians, most of them elderly, had managed to reach the venerated mosque to perform Friday prayers – down sharply from the usual 50,000.
The official, who asked not to be named, added that the mosque appeared to be empty due to strict Israeli control of the streets.
Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli forces had been heavily deployed across occupied East Jerusalem, particularly in the Old City and the entrances leading to the mosque.
Hundreds of Palestinians were forced to perform Friday prayers in the streets near the Old City area after being barred from entering the mosque itself.
The Israeli side gave no reasons for restricting Muslims’ access to Al-Aqsa for prayers.
Tensions have been high across the West Bank and East Jerusalem since fighting broke out on October 7 between Palestinian groups and Israel in Gaza, killing nearly 12,000 Palestinians in Gaza, many of them women and children.
Israel has killed more than 200 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since October 7, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.