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400,000 pray at Al-Aqsa overnight to mark the holy night of Leilat al-Qadr

July 2, 2016 12:43 P.M. (Updated: July 3, 2016 4:46 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Some 400,000 worshipers prayed overnight at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, the director of Islamic Endowments and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs told Ma’an on Saturday, marking Leilat al-Qadr, observed on one of the last days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib told Ma’an that the worshipers prayed overnight at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as hundreds of thousands arrived at the compound from the occupied Palestinian territory and various other countries, such as Malaysia, Turkey, South Africa, the UK, and Indonesia.

Praying during the holy night of Leilat al-Qadr, also known as the "Night of Power" and usually observed on the 27th day of Ramadan, is said to be better than 1,000 months of prayers, due to what observers claim is an abundance of mercy and blessings shown by God at a time when the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad.

Al-Khatib said that guards were stationed throughout the Al-Aqsa compound to keep order and to facilitate the entrance and exit of worshipers in the area, including prohibiting individuals from begging or selling goods in the compound.

He added that hundreds of volunteers worked to clean the mosque compound following prayers in cooperation with a cleaning service.

Hundreds of thousands of meals were distributed at iftar, the evening meal served at sunset following a day of fasting, and 200,000 more meals distributed for suhoor, a meal taken by Muslims early in the morning hours to prepare for the sunrise and resumption of fasting, according to al-Khatib.

According to Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri, limited clashes broke around midnight when "Muslim" youths -- likely referring to local Palestinian youth -- who were gathered outside of Damascus Gate, the entrance to the Muslim Quarter of occupied East Jerusalem's Old City where the mosque is located, and threw rocks at Israeli police forces, with no injuries or damages reported.

Al-Khatib called on Muslims to continue traveling to Al-Aqsa, highlighting that the mosque was “not a place for politics, but a place of worship,” adding that the Israeli government was responsible for the continued political unrest at the compound by continuously challenging the status quo, based on longstanding international agreements preventing non-Muslim worship at the site.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, cherished as the third holiest site in Islam, is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territory which has been occupied by the Israeli army for almost 50 years.

It is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and some Jewish extremists have called for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque so as to build a Third Temple in its place.

Because of the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa compound, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls it to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. However, Israeli forces regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, in an attempt to challenge the status quo and leading to tensions with Palestinian worshipers.

For years, non-Muslims and tourists have been banned from the compound during the final ten holiest days of Ramadan, however right-wing Israelis toured the site on two occasion sparking clashes with Palestinian youth that were violently suppressed by Israeli police.
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