Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque reopens to faithful after coronavirus closure

Jerusalem, May 31 (efe-epa).- Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, reopened to worshippers Sunday for the first time in 70 days following its closure to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Thousands gathered at the gates of the complex in the early hours of the morning before the first call to prayer.

There was a strong Israel security presence at the site, which is located on occupied Palestinian territory in the Old City.

Police had been braced for potential unrest after Israeli security killed an unarmed Palestinian man on Saturday.

Eyad Rawhi Al-Halaq, who had autism, did not stop when police asked to search him on suspicion he was carrying a gun.

However, Jerusalem’s Old City was calm Sunday morning between the first call to prayer and the second one at midday. The faithful were able to access the religious complex individually or with family members.

Aouni Bazbaz, the lead guide at the site, told Efe the Esplanade would remain open during its normal hours but that no more than 50 people are allowed to congregate inside the mosque at any given time.

There are no restrictions on the number of people who can gather in the outside courtyard area, so long as they observe social distancing.

Sheikh Omar al Kiswani, the director of Al Aqsa, praised the patience of the faithful during the months of waiting and urged them to scrupulously comply with the distancing measures

“This is a mosque for all Muslims in the world,” he said.

The spread of the pandemic saw the religious site closed for the longest time since the Crusades, Bazbaz told Efe.

The extraordinary circumstances also mean that Ramadan and Eid were not celebrated in the mosque for the first time. EFE-EPA


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