Some 150,000 Muslim worshippers attended prayers on the first Friday of the fast month of Ramadan, against a backdrop of heightened security by Israel. Large numbers of police patrolled in the Old City of Jerusalem ahead of the start of prayers, with reinforcements from police forces across the country arriving at the capital to boost numbers.
Entry for West Bank and Gaza Strip residents to the Temple Mount compound, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was limited to 5,000 married men of at least 45 years and women aged 35 or older, in order to prevent violent mass protests from erupting after the prayers. No age restrictions were imposed on Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Police also set up checkpoints all around Jerusalem to prevent people from taking back roads into the city by foot, witnesses said. In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, soldiers prevented a few hundred worshippers from entering Jerusalem and some tried to push and shove their way through. Israel Defense Forces troops fired a stun grenade, setting off a loud blast. One Palestinian was reported lightly injured. Asked about the scuffles at the checkpoint, the military said that Palestinian officials in the city had not provided lists of names of worshippers, preventing soldiers from allowing people past checkpoints. The IDF said soldiers needed to screen lists for possible security risks. A quarter of a million people used to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan before the intifada erupted three years ago with riots at the complex.