220,000 Palestinians perform Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa

JERUSALEM (AA): Tens of thousands of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and from Palestinian villages inside Israel have converged on Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque to mark the second Friday of the Ramadan fasting month.

Men over 40, children under 12, and women of all ages were allowed by the Israeli authorities to enter occupied East Jerusalem without permits.

“An estimated 220,000 Palestinian worshipers showed up to pray at Al-Aqsa for the second Friday of Ramadan,” Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (a Jordan-run agency responsible for overseeing the city’s Islamic and Christian sites), told Anadolu Agency. According to al-Dibs, some 100,000 worshipers are expected to stay at the site to attend Taraweeh (evening) prayers.

Israeli police, meanwhile, stepped up security at the flashpoint religious site, deploying hundreds of troops in and around Jerusalem’s Old City. Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem — in which the Al-Aqsa is located — during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

In a move never recognized by the international community, Israel annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the self-proclaimed Jewish state’s “eternal and undivided” capital.

For Muslims, the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex represents the world’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina.

Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount”, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times. International law continues to view the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territory”.

Israel breaks up West Bank demonstration, injuring four: At least four Palestinian demonstrators were injured Friday when Israeli troops violently dispersed an anti-settlement protest in the northern West Bank, according to a local activist. Murad Ishteiwi, a popular resistance activist in the town of Kafr Qaddum west of the city of Nablus, told Anadolu Agency that Israeli troops had dispersed the demonstration with teargas and rubber bullets.

According to the activist, four protesters sustained injuries from rubber bullets while dozens of others suffered the effects of excessive teargas.

Every Friday, Palestinians in villages and towns across the West Bank stage demonstrations and marches to protest Israel’s policy of illegal settlement-building.

According to estimates, some 650,000 settlers currently live on 164 Jewish-only settlements built illegally throughout the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.