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Israeli forces attack Muslim worshippers at al-Aqsa during first night of Ramadan

Video footage showed Israeli forces beating worshippers walking to prayers at the holy site, while others were forbidden from entering
Muslim worshippers walk towards the Dome of the Rock, part of the al-Aqsa holy site, on the first evening of Ramadan (Reuters)

Israeli forces beat and prevented Muslim worshippers from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on the first night of the holy month of Ramadan

In video footage shared online, armed Israeli police officers are seen hitting Palestinians in the streets of the Old City, while they were walking towards the holy site to attend taraweeh prayers.

The special prayers take place every night of the holy month of Ramadan, and typically attract tens of thousands of Muslims who pray in congregation. 

According to local media, Israeli soldiers set up multiple checkpoints around the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem, blocking roads and obstructing people from reaching the site.

Eyewitnesses said that Israeli police only allowed some men and women over the age of 40 to enter the site.

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The Israeli government had issued a statement on 5 March saying that they would not restrict Palestinian worshippers during Ramadan. 

Witnesses said that Israeli forces stopped and checked the bags of young men and women in the alleyways of the Old City.

One woman told local media that “the number of Palestinians who were prevented from entering al-Aqsa was more than the number of worshippers who were able to enter and perform taraweeh prayers.”

“The occupation forces have even prevented any gatherings of Palestinians or prayers in the surrounding areas,” she added, referring to Israeli security forces.

'Attack' on free worship

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday restrictions imposed by Israel on Muslim worshippers' access to al-Aqsa was pushing the situation towards an "explosion".

In his statement, Safadi said his country rejected Israel's move to limit access to the holy site during Ramadan, citing security needs with war raging in Gaza.

'The number of Palestinians who were prevented from entering al-Aqsa was more than the number of worshipers who were able to enter'

- Jerusalem resident

He added that Jordan shared the Palestinian view that such restrictions were an attack on freedom of worship.

The prevention of worshippers from entering al-Aqsa comes at the same time that Palestinians in Gaza were forced to pray in the outdoors amidst the ruins, following over five months of Israeli bombardment and the total destruction of nearly all of Gaza’s mosques. 

Palestinians in Gaza told Middle East Eye that they are apprehensive about the holy month, as over 31,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Strip since October, while another 70,000 have been wounded. 

The UN has also announced that 80 percent of the Strip is now uninhabitable, while widespread hunger has gripped the majority of Gaza. At least 27 people have died due to hunger and starvation since the start of the war.

“We are now living in conditions worse than the Nakba," Diab al-Zaza told Middle East Eye, referring to the period when Palestinians were killed or driven from their homes when the state of Israel came into existence. 

"At the time of the Nakba there were fewer people and the country was open, but now we are besieged from all sides," he added. 

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