Tight Security At Al-Aqsa For Friday Prayers

Many Palestinians, living in the West Bank, turned back from attending prayers

A Palestinian man waits before crossing into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, May 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)

BETHLEHEM, West Bank -- Under tight Israeli security, thousands of Palestinian worshippers started their journey to attend prayers on the third Friday of Ramadan in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine.

Israel imposed an age restriction on men taking part - only those over 40 and under 12 were allowed. Women were not restricted by age.
Many Palestinians residing in the West Bank were turned back.
Palestinians describe the restrictions as collective punishment that has hit their economy and made travel difficult.They complain that access to holy sites, especially during Ramadan, should be guaranteed by Israel, which has occupied Arab East Jerusalem and its Old City since 1967.

Israeli police say the restrictions are imposed for security reasons, in order to prevent attacks against the Jewish state, and that the restrictions have been lighter than in past years. At the Israeli army's two main checkpoints between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, as well as QalandIya checkpoint separating Ramallah from Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians still made the crossing, under the eye of Israeli troops checking identification cards.

Ramadan is the Muslim month of abstinence during daylight and is marked by festivities at night, with lanterns, balloons, firecrackers, feasts and visits to family and loved ones.

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