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150,000 Palestinians attend Friday prayers al-Aqsa Mosque, defying restrictions

At least 150,000 Palestinians have thronged al-Aqsa Mosque in the occupied Old City of al-Quds to attend Friday prayers amid heightened tensions over Israeli raids.

Officials from the Islamic Waqf department, which is in charge of the al-Aqsa Mosque, said about 150,000 people, mostly Palestinians from the al-Quds, the West Bank, and the Israeli occupied territories, offered prayers at the mosque compound defying restrictions imposed on the entry of worshipers to the holy site.

Palestine’s official Wafa news agency said Israeli occupation forces barricaded multiple roads and alleys leading to the Old City of al-Quds, forcing Palestinians to take longer routes to reach the mosque.

Israeli forces also deployed large numbers of troops at the gates leading to the holy site, inspecting the identity cards of worshipers and subjecting them to body frisking.

The news agency said thousands of Palestinians prayed at Israeli checkpoints leading to the Old City of al-Quds from the occupied West Bank after being blocked from entering the holy city.

Palestinian worshipers are seen during Friday prayers at the compound of the al-Aqsa Mosque in the occupied Old City of al-Qud on April 22, 2022. (Photo by Palestine’s official Wafa news agency)

Earlier in the day, Israeli forces raided the mosque after dawn prayers and fired rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades and tear gas at the Palestinian worshipers at the Dome of the Rock inside the compound.

Wafa cited the Palestinian Red Crescent as saying that at least 31 worshipers were injured in the gruesome attack while many others suffered suffocation from tear gas inhalation.

It said two of the injured people were critical, while 11 others had been transferred to the hospital.

Tensions between the two sides have witnessed a sharp rise since the beginning of Ramadan, with Israeli forces stepping up raids of al-Aqsa Mosque, assaulting Muslim worshipers inside prayer halls, and providing protection to the Israeli settlers desecrating Islam’s third holiest site.

The Israeli regime’s crimes have sparked widespread condemnation from Muslim countries as well as warnings for an outbreak of a new war with Gaza.

UN seeks probe into Israel’s use of force at al-Aqsa

The United Nations has expressed deep concern over the worsening security situation in the occupied Palestinian territories following a spate of deadly Israeli raids on the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

“We are deeply concerned by the escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel over the past month,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Friday.

“The use of force by Israeli forces resulting in widespread injuries among worshippers and staff in and around the al-Aqsa Mosque compound must be promptly, impartially, independently, and transparently investigated,” she noted.

Shamdasani asserted that those responsible for any violations should be “held to account”, and that policies and procedures on the use of force be “reviewed with a view to avoid any further violations”.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued on Friday, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas said all Palestinians must mobilize to confront the Israeli occupation and colonial settlers and to head to the al-Aqsa Mosque in the occupied Old City of al-Quds despite intensified Israeli assaults.

The movement said the Palestinian people should stay at the mosque throughout the last ten days of the holy month of Ramadan to defend al-Quds, the mosque, and the Palestinian worshipers there.

In May last year, frequent acts of violence against Palestinian worshipers at al-Aqsa Mosque led to an 11-day war between Palestinian resistance groups in the besieged Gaza Strip and the Israeli regime, during which the regime forces killed at least 260 Palestinians, including 66 children.

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