Waving Palestinian flags and hoisting banners reading “Jerusalem isn’t for sale” at the golden Dome of the Rock mosque, Palestinians shared their selfies on social media. They exchanged Eid greetings despite a grim mood that has prevailed in a site venerated by Muslims and Jews.
Strict security measures imposed by Israel amid escalating violence did not stop the worshippers from going to the mosque. Men over 50 and women and children under 12 are regularly allowed into the compound during Ramadan for Friday prayers.
Others have to obtain permits from Israeli authorities, or try to find their way on to the esplanade.
Israeli Arabs can gain access to Al Aqsa without a permit as they carry Israeli passports, as well as the Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem.
But If the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem leave the holy city for more than six years for any reason — including to study or work — they will not be allowed to return.
If they move to live outside the district’s municipal boundaries, even to nearby cities in the West Bank such as Ramallah, they lose their blue resident IDs issued by Israel.
On Friday, the last Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, more than 40 people were injured as Israeli forces used force including stun grenades, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and batons against stone-throwing Palestinians.
The Palestinian Red Crescent put the number of Palestinians injured over a two-week period of violence at the site at 300.
The unrest follows a wave of gun attacks by Palestinians in Israeli cities and towns that have killed 14 people in the last month. At least 25 Palestinians have been killed in the same period after Israeli forces launched a security operation in the occupied West Bank in response to the shootings.
Al Aqsa Mosque compound is a site considered holy by Muslims and Jews, and is a focal point of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Known as Haram Al Sharif to Muslims, the compound includes Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock mosque.
Muslims believe that the Prophet Mohammed travelled from Makkah to Jerusalem and ascended to heaven from the site. Jews consider the area the most sacred place in Judaism as they believe it was once the site of two holy temples.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City, from Jordan during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and then annexed the area. Israel later declared a unified Jerusalem to be its capital, but that move has not been recognised by the international community.
Violence at Al Aqsa during Ramadan last year was one of the factors leading up to the 11-day war between Israel and militant groups in Gaza.
This year’s violence stepped up as Ramadan overlapped with the Jewish Passover, with Jews praying at the site under Israeli protection.
Al Aqsa Mosque is administered by a waqf — an Islamic trust — that is funded and controlled by Jordan in a security arrangement with Israel after both countries signed a peace treaty in 1994.
Under the arrangement, Jews are not allowed to pray in the grounds of Al Aqsa compound, but can pray at the nearby Western Wall.