Muslims mark first Friday prayers of Ramadan

Muslims mark first Friday prayers of Ramadan

Muslims around the region have marked the first Friday prayers of Ramadan.

Ramadan, or holy month, is embraced by periods of daylight fasting, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.

These are five principles which Muslims believe are compulsory acts ordered by God: the others are faith, prayer, charity and making the pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah.

Thousands of worshippers mingled with a vastly boosted number of Israeli police in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday afternoon, as Muslims from across the world walked to Al Aqsa Mosque.

At the entrance to David Street in Jaffa Gate, police stood by a Hebrew sign directing Jews away from the busy thoroughfare, and into an alternate route through the calmer Armenian Quarter.

Forces had attached tear gas launchers to their weapons and had riot helmets at the ready.

With at least 85 Palestinians killed since the beginning of the year, a far-right Israeli government whose ministers have breached the holy compound and a new generation of Palestinian militants on the rise, many fear that Ramadan could be particularly tense.

Scenes at the Western Wall were calm, but a vast line of police vehicles and a helicopter and drones above the Jewish holy site reminded visitors that only a few metres away was perhaps the most contentious area in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

On David Street, tourists were more confused than normal by the complex network of alleys, many of which had been shut off by Israeli forces in a bid to control crowds.

An American visitor, who had been separated from his group, struggled to find his way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

An American pastor came to his rescue, but it was a slow walk to the church against a steady stream of visitors heading in the opposite direction.

They could barely hear each other, over the noise of boys selling prayer mats and Ramadan sweets.

Others risked walking into the Al Aqsa compound. Non-Muslims are banned from doing so, apart from during specific visiting times.

Some slipped through, only to be directed away by mosque volunteers.

Earlier, thousands of worshippers attended the dawn fajr prayer, despite strict security restrictions.

After prayers in Iran, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in what is becoming a familiar sight in the Balochistan region. Activists claimed the internet had been shut down during the demonstrations.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim met Malaysian students in Saudi Arabia to celebrate Ramadan before attending Friday prayers.

Meanwhile, thousands gathered at the Jamia Mosque in Srinagar, Kashmir.

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