Stun grenades were fired and many denied entry by Israel as thousands gathered at Qalandia checkpoint south of Ramallah, on their way to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque today, the last Friday of Ramadan.
Palestinians living in the west bank have been temporarily allowed to cross the border during ramadan, an act which Israel has called generous and a sign of their respect for religious freedom. However, for most Palestinians, this is the last chance to pray at Al-Aqsa until next year. Many under 40 were frustrated as they were still being denied access, and had often been met with violence.
“We want to go to pray at Al-Aqsa and I am sad because they refuse us. We try to climb over the wall but it is dangerous. They have caught me twice today. They could arrest me.” said one young man.
Many had travelled far, only to be not allowed in: “I am from Jordan. I have travelled to pray at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan, and I am sad because they will not let me through. They said I am a terrorist and that they will kick me if I try again. Do you think that all these people here have come just to cause trouble?”
Another man who had travelled from Jenin city, northern West Bank, and been at the border since 4am had similar experiences.
Violence was used against some, who said they had been hit and kicked by Israeli soldiers. Stun grenades were set off in the crowd as the queue got larger, causing people to run.
When asked what they could do about the situation, many were pessimistic.
“We can do nothing about this”, said one man. Another shrugged and said “at the checkpoint they do what they want”.