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Palestinians Observe Ramadan under Tight Israeli Security


Israel imposes a security clampdown in Jerusalem for the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Some 90,000 Palestinians attended Ramadan prayers at the Mosque of Al Aksa in Jerusalem, the third holiest place of Islam. Thousands of Israeli police and soldiers patrolled the streets in an around the walled Old City.

Fearing possible unrest, police barred Palestinian men under the age of 50 and women under the age of 45 from entering the mosque compound, which is home to the golden Dome of the Rock shrine.

Palestinian officials accused Israel of denying Muslims freedom of worship during the holy month of fasting. Hassan Awar, a Palestinian attending the prayers, said the restrictions are unnecessary.

"We hope that it will be peace between the Arabs and Israel," said Awar. "We don't need no soldiers, we don't need nothing. It's a holiday, it's a happy holiday and it's a religious holiday."

Police said the restrictions are necessary because in the past, young Palestinians have incited riots at the Al-Aksa Mosque during Friday prayers. The mosque is a flash 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.

The security clampdown had the desired effect: prayers for the first Friday of Ramadan passed quietly.

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