Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque reopens on Sunday as coronavirus restrictions ease
Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, has reopened for prayers on Sunday morning for the first time in more than two months, as part of steps to ease coronavirus restrictions.
Hundreds of Muslims filed into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, wearing the ubiquitous blue facemasks for protection. They were allowed to enter the mosque building, as well as the Dome of the Rock shrine, but they were required to have their own prayer rug and mask. Around 4,000 people arrived for dawn prayers, the director of the mosque told CNN, a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands the compound would host on a busy day.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have both begun to ease restrictions imposed to control the spread of coronavirus. The decision to impose stringent restrictions early in the pandemic’s spread has been hailed as a key factor in why cases of coronavirus have stayed relatively low in both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
To date, there have been 17,000 coronavirus cases and 284 deaths in Israel, and 386 cases and three deaths in the occupied West Bank.