After days of tension at the sensitive Jerusalem site that resulted in cross-border exchanges of fire, Ramadan prayers and Jewish Passover visits at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound went off without incident on Sunday.
Small groups of Jewish pilgrims walked across the mosque compound, known as Temple Mount in Judaism, as thousands of worshippers gathered below for the Passover holiday’s special “Priestly Blessing.”
The Al-Aqsa compound – sacred to Muslims and Jews – has been at the centre of a security crisis set off last week when Israeli police raided the mosque to dislodge what they said were youths barricaded inside armed with rocks and fireworks.
Footage of the raid, showing police beating worshippers, triggered a furious reaction across the Arab world, sparking rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian factions that were met with Israeli strikes on sites in Gaza, south Lebanon and Syria.
There were no reports of casualties.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s armed Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, met with Palestinian Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Lebanon, the group said on Sunday, and discussed the Al-Aqsa events.
Israeli security experts have said that Iran-backed Hezbollah likely gave its permission to Islamist Hamas to fire the rockets from Lebanon.
“Our enemies were wrong when they thought that Israel’s citizens were not united in support for the IDF (Israel Defence Forces),” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who is facing unprecedented protests at home against judicial changes – said in a statement.
In Gaza, Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesperson urged “all fronts to unite and confront the escalation by the arrogant (Israeli) occupation.”