Clashes were reported between Palestinians and police around Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, with at least one arrest made, as authorities sought to limit access to Friday prayers at the Temple Mount to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Riots were reported outside the Old City after police prevented Palestinians from reaching the site and closed the Old City doors to anyone except local residents. Police used riot-control methods to disperse the crowd.
Friday prayers were held in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, though in a severely downscaled format, despite Muslim prayer sites being closed across the globe.
The Jordanian Waqf religious authority which runs the site on the Temple Mount, Islam’s third holiest, closed the mosque itself, leaving worshippers to pray in the plaza outside.
Just a few hundred faithful attended, compared with the 30,000 who usually take part. Worshipers gathered in small groups, but rain forced them to gather in sheltered spots in violation of Health Ministry rules.
The decision by the Waqf came as Saudi Arabia has closed the religion’s two holiest spots, in Mecca and Medina, to worshipers.
East Jerusalem has been cut off from the West Bank by an indefinite closure aimed at stemming the spread of the virus, and movement within it has been restricted.
Authorities around the world have moved to restrict large gatherings, including religious ones.
Synagogues in Israel were allowed to remain open with the chief rabbinate limiting the number of participants in prayers to 10, and many local religious authorities instructing believers to pray at home.
The Israeli Health Ministry said Friday it had confirmed 705 cases of coronavirus.
Header: Israeli police officers stand guard outside the Old City on March 20, 2020 in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)