Palestinian Muslims mark sad and tense 'holiest Ramazan night' in Jerusalem

Palestinian Muslims mark sad and tense 'holiest Ramazan night' in Jerusalem


Palestinian Muslims marked a tense and sombre last Friday of Ramazan in Jerusalem.

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JERUSALEM (AFP) – Palestinian Muslims marked a tense and sombre last Friday of Ramazan in Jerusalem, with minor scuffles between worshippers and Israeli police controlling the entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

Some 120,000 people descended on the shrine, which dominates the Old City, officials said, with grand mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein urging the faithful to brave the heavy police presence because of the war in Gaza.

Adli al-Agha, 53, from Jerusalem, told AFP that many people "had to flee dawn prayers" after Israeli police deployed a mini-drone spraying tear gas to disperse people chanting "Glory to God".

"In our soul and our blood, we sacrifice for you Al-Aqsa," worshippers declared, according to Agha.

Police said they arrested eight people for inciting terrorism.

Yasser Basha, from Tulkarem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said police were restricting entrance to the mosque to the old and the very young. Only men over 55 and women over 50 were being allowed inside, he said.

"If it wasn't for the war, things would have been much easier," he added.

Friday also marks Laylat al-Qadr ("The Night of Destiny"), the spiritual climax of the Muslim holy month, which commemorates the moment the archangel Gabriel first appeared to Prophet Mohammed and began revealing the Koran.

It is the night when Muslims believe their prayers are most likely to be granted, a festive moment while children stay up late and shops stay open till the small hours.

But many Palestinians are not in the mood to celebrate and are praying for an end to the war in Gaza after almost six months of bloodshed.


Sameeha Al Qadi, 55, who had come from near Bethlehem, said Jerusalem "is sad and has lost its light -- we all feel what is going on in Gaza. We can't escape it for a minute."

This year there are few Ramazan decorations or lights in the Holy City, with Palestinians instead having a bitter coffee and a date -- traditionally to mark mourning -- on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when feasts are usually held.

"There is sweet nothing about the feast this year. People are not celebrating," said Sabah, 54, some of whose relatives have been killed in Gaza.

"Everything is bitter in my mouth. It is so painful at this time which is all about family."

Easter was similarly subdued last weekend for Palestinian Christians.

Adnan Jafar, 60, a sweet maker in the Old City, said usually in Ramazan his shop is at its busiest.

"But I have never had a Ramazan like this. And we all know why. (Gaza) is not just affecting us, it is affecting the whole world."

The bloodiest ever Gaza war erupted with Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,170 Israelis and foreigners, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.