Palestinians worshippers have managed to gain access to the Israeli-restricted Bab al-Rahma area of the al-Aqsa Mosque in the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds.
Thousands of worshippers, who gained access to the area on Friday, were responding to calls by Palestinian clerics — including al-Aqsa Mosque’s Mufti Ekrima Sa’id Sabri — to gather in the Bab al-Rahma sector for Friday prayers, according to the Palestinian Information Center.
Bab al-Rahma, with a gate of the same name, consists of a large building and a courtyard that lie east of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
The building was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 after they claimed it was being used by Palestinians for political activities. Israeli authorities renewed the restriction order annually until an Israeli court ordered the building closed until further notice in 2017.
Israeli forces responded to the planned assembly on Friday by setting up numerous roadblocks and checkpoints and arresting up to 60 Palestinians, according to various local Palestinian sources.
The Israeli measures, however, failed to stop the crowd from opening the gate and entering the area for prayers.
Following the development, the Palestinian factions issued a statement describing the event as “a new peaceful victory against the Israeli occupation.”
Tensions continue in the occupied Palestinian territories in the aftermath of a move by the United States to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and relocate its embassy to the occupied city.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound is a flashpoint, highly respected by Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. The mosque is Islam’s third holiest site after Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina.