Thousands of Palestinians have re-entered al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, after Israeli authorities lifted an age restriction it had placed earlier last month.
The Islamic Waqf religious authority that administers the compound announced that all gates would be opened to Palestinians of all ages.
Earlier in the day, Israeli police prevented access to the holy shrine for men under the age of 50, and closed some of the compound’s gates.
The announcement came just a few hours before Friday prayers began. Thousands of men prayed in the streets and just outside the compound’s gates.
According to religious officials, 10,000 worshippers made their way inside al-Aqsa Mosque compound for noon prayers.
Small protests against these restrictions broke out after prayers in different towns and cities in the occupied West Bank.
Police fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters in Bethlehem, and there was a high police presence near al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
In Bethlehem, approximately 200 Palestinians held prayers in front of the Separation Wall.
Israelis fired live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas at the crowd, the Red Crescent said.
In an act of civil disobedience, Palestinians have held prayers day and night outside al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the past two weeks in protest at Israel’s increased surveillance measures and obstacles to free movement at the entrances and gates.
On Thursday 27 July, Palestinians made their way inside the compound for the first time in 13 days after the Israeli government removed newly installed security cameras and metal detectors.
In more than 12 days of protests, Israeli forces wounded more than 1,000 Palestinians during clashes, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Palestinians view al-Aqsa Mosque compound as more than just a religious site, Ahmad Buderi, a Jerusalem affairs commentator, said.
“It is a place where we meet, a place where we bury our dead people, a place where we get married,” he told Al Jazeera. “It is our social place. It is where we play football in the afternoons.”
Palestinians knew that they would bear the responsibility of protecting the mosque, Buderi said, adding that the Arab and Islamic world can do nothing.
“The Palestinians joined together, and forgot about their political and social differences, and that’s how we won,” he said.