Thousands of Palestinian worshipers on Friday performed noon prayers at the holy al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied Jerusalem.
Hundreds of Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip traveled to occupied East Jerusalem via the Erez crossing between the small enclave and Israel to perform Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to sources at the Palestinian liaison officials.
Thousands of Muslim worshipers flocked to the holy al-Aqsa Mosque despite the heavy deployment of Israeli police and border guards at the gates of the site and the main entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem.
Al-Aqsa Imam (preacher) urged, during Friday Khutba (sermon), the Israeli occupation to cease its violations of Palestinians’ rights and stop break-ins at al-Aqsa. He slammed the Israeli occupation for fanning the flames of religious conflict in the region, adding the al-Aqsa has been and will forever remain Muslims’ exclusive property.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque, cherished as the third holiest site in Islam, is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territory which has been occupied by the Israeli army for almost 50 years.
It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and some Jewish extremists have called for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque so as to build a Third Temple in its place.
Visitations by elderly Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to Al-Aqsa were implemented as part of a ceasefire agreement that ended Israel’s 2014 offensive on the besieged enclave. However, due to Israeli security concerns and Jewish holidays, visitations have been frequently interrupted since their introduction.
The majority of the more than 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are sealed inside the coastal enclave due to a near-decade long military blockade imposed by Israel and upheld by Egypt on the southern border.