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Tens of thousands at Aqsa mosque on first Friday of Ramadan

July 12, 2013 10:58 P.M. (Updated: July 17, 2013 9:52 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Tens of thousands of Palestinians performed prayers in the al-Aqsa mosque on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.

The number of worshipers was around 250,000, the head of Islamic endowments said.

Sheikh Azzam al-Ahmad said that a huge number of people arrived at the al-Aqsa compound from the West Bank and "we hope the number increases in the next few days."

Israeli authorities relaxed usual restrictions on entry to Jerusalem by West Bankers but limited entry by men to the Al-Aqsa compound to those over 40 years of age.

Jerusalem mufti Sheikh Mohamed Hussein called on Palestinians to continue visiting the city and the mosque.

“The praying crowds send a message that al-Aqsa is an integral part of our faith, that we cannot give up,” he added.

Israeli police put the figure of worshipers at around 80,000.

"There were close to 80,000 worshippers," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

More than 3,000 Israeli police were deployed in the walled Old City, where the compound is located, and elsewhere in occupied east Jerusalem.

The site houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

In a Ramadan concession, the military extended the opening hours of crossing points from the West Bank and allowed those aged 60 and over to pass without the usual mandatory entry permit.

Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are usually barred from Israel and from east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day war and then unilaterally annexed.

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