Israel will allow Muslim worshippers to access Al-Aqsa mosque in Ramadan

AFP , Tuesday 5 Mar 2024

Israel will allow as many Muslim worshippers to access Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the first week of Ramadan as in previous years, the prime minister's office said Tuesday.

Ramadan prayers at Jerusalem s Al-Aqsa mosque
Tens of thousands attended first Friday prayers in the holy month of Ramadan at Jerusalem s Al-Aqsa mosque compound. AFP


"In the first week of Ramadan, worshippers will be allowed to enter the Temple Mount, in similar numbers to those in previous years," the statement said, using the Jewish term for the site.

"Every week there will be a situation assessment in terms of security and safety and a decision will be made accordingly," it added.

Every year, tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers perform Ramadan prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

Ramadan comes this year as Israel wages a relentless military campaign in the Gaza Strip since October 7.

Israel has been assessing how to address worship in Jerusalem during Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month due to start on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

Israel's far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir had recently said that Palestinian residents of the West Bank "should not be allowed" entry to Jerusalem to pray during Ramadan.

Ben Gvir leads a hard-right party advocating Jewish control of the compound.

Days later, the United States called on Israel to allow Muslims to worship at Al-Aqsa.

"It's not just a matter of granting people religious freedom that they deserve... it's also a matter that directly is important to Israel's security," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

"It is not in Israel's security interest to inflame tensions in the West Bank or the broader region."

Hamas has called for a mass movement on Al-Aqsa for the start of Ramadan.

"Ramadan is sacred to Muslims; its sanctity will be upheld this year, as it is every year," the Israeli government statement said after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting of all security agencies on Tuesday.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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