Rising concerns over tensions in East Jerusalem as Ramadan begins with no cease-fire in sight

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JERUSALEM — The sun was sparkling complete nan streets of Jerusalem's Old City connected Monday arsenic nan first afloat time of Ramadan began — but pinch nary cease-fire successful sight, nan warfare successful Gaza formed a dense protector complete nan commencement of nan beatified month, pinch fears of tensions rising astir nan revered Al-Aqsa mosque.

Israeli separator constabulary patrolled nan streets of nan Old City's Muslim 4th — an area that is usually bustling pinch group and adorned pinch lights, lanterns and decorations during Ramadan.

On Monday, it was markedly quiet, pinch nary signs of ceremony arsenic mini groups of worshippers made their measurement to Al-Aqsa, nan third-holiest tract successful Islam, for noon prayers.

For Muslims astir nan world, Ramadan is "the astir important period for us," shopkeeper Jamil Halwani said. But this year, he said, nan accustomed "joy of Ramadan," a clip of fasting, prayer, service, introspection and gathering, was absent.

Jamil Halwani successful Jerusalem.Jamil Halwani successful Jerusalem's Old City connected Monday.Chantal Da Silva / NBC News

“We want to decorate,” but "what we spot successful Gaza — it will not let us," he said arsenic Ramadan began pinch nary motion of a cease-fire woody that would mean nan merchandise of hostages held by Hamas and a halt to Israel's violative successful nan enclave, during which much than 31,000 group person been killed amid increasing fears of a famine.

"This is nan only point we tin do for Gaza arsenic Jerusalemites, is not to decorate," he sighed.

Halwani, 38, said galore besides feared a emergence successful tensions and perchance unit successful East Jerusalem if Israeli authorities artifact worshippers from accessing Al-Aqsa during nan period of Ramadan.

Without nan mosque, "we are nothing. Even if they will hit america aliases apprehension us, we person to spell and pray," he said.

Already, connected Sunday, astatine slightest 1 conflict was reported, pinch nan Palestinian Information Ministry saying Israeli authorities blocked young men from accessing nan mosque's compound arsenic they made their measurement location for nan first Taraweeh, an evening dream held each nighttime of Ramadan.

Video circulated connected societal media showed a ample crowd of group being blocked from accessing 1 of nan gates starring to nan mosque, pinch astatine slightest 2 officers appearing to onslaught at people pinch a baton arsenic nan group was pushed back. NBC News verified nan videos utilizing geolocation. Israeli authorities did not respond to a petition for remark connected nan incident.

The Al Aqsa Compound.The Dome of nan Rock shrine successful nan Al-Aqsa mosque compound Monday.Chantal Da Silva / NBC News

Israel has maintained progressively tight power of nan mosque’s compound successful caller years and successful nan aftermath of Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks. It has astatine times restricted access, chiefly to young men, while fewer of nan astir 3 cardinal Palestinians successful nan occupied West Bank person been capable to scope nan site.

In nan weeks starring up to Ramadan, nan Israeli authorities had been unclear astir whether it would look to enforce caller limits connected entree to nan Al-Aqsa compound during nan beatified month. But past Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's agency said nary caller restrictions would beryllium enforced, contempt calls from far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir for terrible restrictions.

Following Sunday's clash, nan Palestinian Information Ministry said it was "noteworthy that nan business forces person imposed a strict siege connected Al-Aqsa Mosque for 5 months and prevented introduction to it."

Mustafa Abu Sway, a Palestinian clever clever who delivers lectures astatine Al-Aqsa mosque and is simply a personnel of nan Islamic Waqf council, which administers nan site, said he feared Sunday night's incident was a motion of much to come.

Mustafa Abu Sway successful Jerusalem.Mustafa Abu Sway successful Jerusalem connected Monday.Chantal Da Silva / NBC News

"Already, Netanyahu said that location will beryllium nary restrictions — already they violated this," he said. "Already, location are restrictions successful place."

Abu Sway said he worried it would not beryllium safe for boys and young men to sojourn nan Al-Aqsa compound successful nan weeks ahead, and he said it would beryllium "devastating" for young group to person to debar nan ineffable site.

Chuck Freilich, a erstwhile lawman nationalist information advisor successful Israel, said that successful a clip of heightened tension, unwarranted restrictions connected entree to Al-Aqsa during Ramadan could consequence sparking a "broader confrontation — and 1 pinch nonstop belief overtones."

"Jerusalem is simply a tinderbox to statesman with," he said. "Jewish, Muslim aliases Christian, it raises emotions connected each sides."

Hamas has often invoked unit astatine Al-Aqsa mosque successful its efforts to incite uprisings, besides naming its Oct. 7 onslaught nan "Al-Aqsa Flood."

Freilich said that truthful far, Hamas appears to person mostly grounded to "ignite tensions successful Jerusalem," but he said it was imaginable nan group could proceed to effort to usage Ramadan arsenic a "flashpoint."

Daniel Seidemann, a Jerusalem-based lawyer and master connected nan region, said nan emotion successful nan Old City was much “one of sobriety, despair” and “anger” complete nan warfare successful Gaza more than thing else.

 Palestinian worshippers believe successful beforehand of nan Dome of nan Mosque astatine nan al-Aqsa mosqueWorshippers believe successful beforehand of nan Dome of nan Rock shrine astatine nan Al-Aqsa mosque compound successful Jerusalem connected Monday, nan first time of fasting successful nan beatified period of Ramadan.Ahmad Gharabli / AFP - Getty Images

"This is simply a period of introspection, sanctity, family," and yet, he said, "through nary responsibility of its own, Ramadan has turned into a lightning rod of nan conflict."

Manal Abedaya, 20, said Monday aft having visited nan mosque: "It's a very sad Ramadan. Everyone is very sad astir what’s going connected successful Gaza."

She said she would effort to enactment "optimistic" that nan business mightiness alteration during nan period of Ramadan.

"It’s conscionable nan first day," she said.

"Let’s hold and spot what’s going to happen."

Chantal Da Silva

Chantal Da Silva is simply a breaking news editor for NBC News Digital based successful London. 

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