Israeli security forces announced increased presence in Jerusalem’s Old City on the first Friday of Ramadan, as tensions run high over the Gaza war.

Israel’s police force said it will deploy thousands of officers across Jerusalem’s Old City for Ramadan’s first Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque, with tensions high amid the Gaza war.

“We are prepared for Friday prayers with more police officers. Thousands of them will be in the area of Temple Mount,” police spokeswoman Mirit ben Mayor told reporters, using the Jewish name for the Al-Aqsa mosque site.

Hundreds of police officers had already been deployed in the Old City in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem since Ramadan began on Monday, she said.

Ben Mayor said up to 25,000 worshipers had already visited the mosque for prayers during the Muslim month of fasting without any incidents.

“We will do everything to enable this Ramadan to be quiet,” she told a news conference.

Asked about clashes that reportedly occurred between police and worshipers on Sunday, government spokeswoman Tal Heinrich said, “We are on high alert.”

“It’s no secret that extremists, terrorist organizations like Hamas and (Palestinian) Islamic Jihad are trying to inflame the region,” she told the news conference.

Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Muslim worshipers would be allowed to access Al-Aqsa mosque in the same numbers as in previous years during the first week of Ramadan.

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“Every week there will be a situation assessment in terms of security and safety and a decision will be made accordingly,” Netanyahu’s office said.

Palestinians coming to Al-Aqsa from the occupied West Bank were expected to face some restrictions, police said in a statement.

Only men aged 55 and older and women over 50 from the territory would be allowed to enter the mosque compound “for security reasons,” government spokesperson Ofir Gendelman said.

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir had recently called for stricter restrictions on Palestinian residents of the West Bank, saying they “should not be allowed” entry to Jerusalem to pray during Ramadan.

The Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, and although its management technically falls under Jordan’s authority, Israel imposes restrictions in and around the complex.

Clashes often erupt at the site between Muslim worshipers and Israeli security forces.

This year Ramadan comes with Israel engaged in a devastating war with Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

With AFP