In Jerusalem, Thousands Pray at Al-Aqsa on Last Friday of Ramadan
Tens of thousands of Muslims attended prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem amid tight security on the last Friday of Ramadan.
Worshipers, including Palestinians and pilgrims from around the world, sheltered under umbrellas as volunteers sprayed them with water around Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Temple Mount.
Security at the site was heavy after an earlier stabbing attack in the city, in which two Israelis were injured and a Palestinian teenager suspected of carrying out the attack was killed by Israeli security forces.
Later on Friday Muslims celebrate Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Power, on which they believe that the sacred text of the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad by Allah.
Palestinian Muslims in the West Bank and Jerusalem have not traditionally marked the annual “Quds (Jerusalem) Day” initiated by Iran in 1979 and which coincides with Ramadan’s last Friday.
There was no mention of “Quds Day” by Ikrima Sabri, the preacher who delivered the Friday sermon at Al-Aqsa. But he issued a message of defiance to the crowd, which religious officials estimated at 260,000.
“This is a message to all those who wish to take over Al-Aqsa Mosque and to the attackers and those who storm it: don’t exhaust yourselves, you will never have control over one inch of Al-Aqsa, it is a red line.”
But in Gaza, where the Islamist terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad are backed by Iran, “Quds Day” was commemorated.
On Thursday, Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s chief in Gaza, restated Hamas’s opposition to US President Donald Trump’s forthcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. The first stage of that plan is due to be an economic conference in Manama, Bahrain, where Trump officials will encourage Arab countries to invest in the Palestinian territories.
“What audacity is Trump announcing? He wants to sell Jerusalem to the Zionist enemy, and he wants the Arabs to pay the price,” Sinwar told a meeting north of Gaza City. “This deal will not pass as long as we are alive.”
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, addressed the meeting by video link from Iran.
“Efforts to convene the Manama conference and the normalization attempts by some come in the course of the infamous conspiracy of the ‘Deal of the Century’ which will fail because of the resistance of the Palestinian people,” Shamkhani, speaking in Arabic, told the audience.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014. Trump touts the peace plan as the “deal of the century,” but the Palestinians have boycotted the Trump administration since it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and they fear the plan will fall far short of their core demands.