Middle East

Jerusalems Al-Aqsa mosque reopens for prayers after more than two months

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Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque reopened to worshippers on Sunday after a two-and-a-half month coronavirus closure, but Muslim authorities imposed some precautions as health officials warn of an uptick in local infections.

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The resumption of prayers at Islam's third-holiest site caps a sombre period for Jerusalem's Muslims, who this year marked the holy fasting month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday without their usual daily visits to Al-Aqsa and the adjoining Dome of the Rock.

"After they opened the mosque, I feel like I can breathe again. Thanks be to God," Jerusalem resident Umm Hisham said through a face mask, her eyes tearing up, after entering the compound for dawn prayers with hundreds of other Muslims.

The Council of Islamic Waqf cited the slowed local spread of COVID-19 in lifting entry restrictions and reopening the compound's iconic shrines, which shut on March 15.

Hundreds of Muslims chanted "God is the greatest" as they packed into the compound in Jerusalem's walled Old City early on Sunday for dawn prayers, a Reuters witness said. Some got on their knees and kissed the ground as they entered.

As an implementation to safety procedures, the worshipers perform the first morning prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque after the closure of more than two months because of Coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/4hqp18kQZO

— Palestinian Eve 🇵🇸 (@Palestinian_Eve) May 31, 2020

But Muslim authorities imposed some measures to reduce the risk of contagion, as new cases in Israel spiked in recent days.

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