With the onset of the month of Ramadan last Friday, and a commensurate increase in activity at the crossings in Judea and Samaria, the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT) successfully implemented measures that accommodated the the needs of Palestinians seeking to participate in Ramadan.
Massive preparations were undertaken in anticipation of a large number of worshipers to the al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount for the first Friday of Ramadan. The preparations, managed by Lt. Col. Ofer Mei-Tal, Head of the Jerusalem District Coordinating Liaison (DCL) included a survey of the Ramadan festival and the standard operating procedures of the DCL forces in the field, and the positioning of shade nets and coolers to alleviate the oppressive July heat. Thousands of Police and Border Police officers were also dispatched to maintain order. Men 40 and over, children under 12, and female worshipers were all permitted to enter Jerusalem from Judea and Samaria without a permit, while there was no restriction on entrance to the Temple Mount for Muslim worshipers.
As expected, over 45,000 Palestinians entered Israel on Friday, while tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers descended on the al Aksa Mosque for prayers. Due in large part to the extensive planning, there were no confrontations between Israeli security forces and Muslim worshipers. Similar numbers of visitors are expected on the coming Fridays and for the Islamic holidays of Laylat al-Qadr and Eid-al Fitr.
Last year, Israeli police had to use water cannons to disperse Palestinian youths trying to charge a barrier to the al-Aqsa mosque ahead of Ramadan prayers. As a result Israel imposed a minimum age limit of 50 for Muslims seeking to ascend to the Temple Mount.