Jerusalem: Al-Aqsa spirit survives Israeli raids, say Ramadan worshippers
Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque said they are determined to experience the Muslim holy month of Ramadan inside its courtyards despite recent Israeli raids.
Scores of worshippers inside the mosque were injured by Israeli forces on Friday evening, but still 90,000 people turned up at al-Aqsa on Saturday for Laylat al-Qadr, or the night of power, which is considered the holiest night in Ramadan.
Many of them travelled long distances from the occupied West Bank or from Palestinian-majority towns inside Israel, despite their buses being blocked by Israeli police. Many disembarked and began walking towards Jerusalem, where Palestinian Jerusalemites arrived in cars to ferry them to al-Aqsa.
Mohammed Atiq, from the West Bank town of Jenin, said Friday's raids on al-Aqsa did not deter the worshippers.
"They began attempts to clear out al-Aqsa, attempts to ruin the night of worship," he told Middle East Eye. "But the will of the worshippers is stronger than bullets."
The last 10 nights of Ramadan are typically especially busy in al-Aqsa, attracting many seeking to stay within the mosque, including both women and elderly men, who are allowed by Israel to enter from the West Bank during the month, as well as young men who jump the separation wall.
This year, however, Israel has allowed only a minority of vaccinated Palestinian worshippers to enter.
Tensions in Jerusalem have been high all month. Palestinians gathered in the evenings at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City were confronted with Israeli forces who attempted to forcibly disperse them during the first week of Ramadan.
Recently, the situation has reached a boiling point in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where protests against planned evictions of Palestinian families have been attacked by Israeli settlers and police.
Despite the violence, many Palestinians have insisted on continuing to spend their nights in al-Aqsa.
Suad Abu Eraim, from the town of Yatta in the southern West Bank, said she faced a difficult journey getting to Jerusalem, spending hours waiting at Israeli checkpoints.
She said she goes to al-Aqsa whenever she has the opportunity, which has usually been when she could take advantage of the eased restrictions on accessing Jerusalem during Ramadan.
"This is al-Aqsa mosque, this mosque is ours, we must stay tied to it," Abu Eraim told MEE. "We must be present here, young or old, from every place."