The National / March 23, 2023
Number of officers expected to rise to 2,000 for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, as holy month begins.
Thousands of Muslim worshippers prayed at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Wednesday night at the beginning of Ramadan.
More Israeli police officers were on scene than usual, with numbers expected to rise to about 2,000 for Friday prayers.
The holy month has historically been period of tension in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
On Monday, Israel issued rules for Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza to pray at Al-Aqsa.
Women have access to the compound without a permit. Male children under the age of 12 and those over 55 can travel without a permit. Stricter rules apply for those coming from Gaza.
Authorities said the measures will be reassessed throughout the month.
On Thursday, Israeli prison authorities were gearing up to prepare for mass hunger strikes over Ramadan among Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails.
They are protesting against policies pushed by Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, which include stopping Palestinians arrested on security charges from baking their own bread and limiting the time in which they can shower.
On Wednesday morning, Israeli forces launched raids on cities and surrounding villages in the occupied West Bank, including Ramallah, Nablus, Jericho and Jerusalem. Israeli and Palestinian outlets reported that 26 arrests were made.
Jerusalem’s increased police presence comes as tensions at Al-Aqsa compound rise over the conduct of some members of the new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In January, Mr Ben-Gvir visited the site under heavy security. He said on Twitter that it was “open to all”, drawing condemnation domestically and abroad.
The area encompassing Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is also sacred in Judaism.
Also in January, Israeli police prevented Jordan’s ambassador to Israel from accessing the site, later saying that their officers did not recognize Ghassan Majali and that he did not apply for permission. Mr Majali eventually left in protest.
The Jordanian Waqf is the custodian of the mosque.
On Wednesday, Jordan’s parliament recommended the expulsion of the Israel’s ambassador to the kingdom, in response to comments by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.
Mr Smotrich said Palestinians were a “historical invention” and stood in front of a banner that depicted an Israeli flag covering Jordanian and Palestinian territory.
Thomas Helm is Jerusalem Correspondent at The National