By Anees Bargouthi
Around 250,000 Muslims turned out to pray at East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque for the third Friday of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month.
Since dawn, Palestinian worshipers from Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank began converging on Al-Aqsa, which for Muslims represents the world’s third holiest site.
The Israeli Authorities, for their part, stepped up security in the area, deploying thousands of policemen and erecting roadblocks at the entrances of Jerusalem’s Old City.
They also deployed a helicopter and a surveillance blimp to monitor activities in and around the flashpoint religious site.
Only men over 45 and children under 12 -- along with women of all ages -- were allowed by the Israeli authorities to enter occupied East Jerusalem without entry permits.
Around 300 Palestinian residents of the blockaded Gaza Strip were also allowed -- for the second time this Ramadan -- to enter Jerusalem on Friday.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.