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90,000 Palestinians Attend Ramadan Prayers in Jerusalem


There was tight security in Jerusalem for the first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Robert Berger filed this VOA report from the Old City of Jerusalem.

About 90,000 Palestinians attended Ramadan prayers at the Mosque of al-Aksa in Jerusalem-the third holiest place in Islam. The site is a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For Jews it is the Temple Mount, the site of the two biblical Temples and the holiest place in Judaism.

Thousands of Israeli police deployed in and around Jerusalem's walled Old City to keep order. Fearing a repeat of riots that have taken place there in the past, police barred Palestinian men under the age of 45 from entering the mosque compound.

Mahmoud Abu Ali, a Palestinian shopkeeper in the Old City, said Israel is offending Muslims by imposing restrictions at the Mosque of al-Aksa. "Every Moslem person in Jerusalem, he is against the idea," he said.

Abu Ali told VOA that Israel is denying Muslims freedom of worship even though there haven't been riots at the site in years. "This is ridiculous," he said. "The Israeli government create problems. It's killing Jerusalem."

Israel says its security measures prevent Palestinian militants from stoking violence at a place that is holy to both Jews and Arabs. And on the first Friday of Ramadan, Muslim prayers passed quietly.


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