(Jerusalem) Tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers gathered on Friday on the esplanade of the Mosques of Jerusalem for the first great weekly prayer of Ramadan, noted AFP journalists, and no major incident was reported to this occasion.

The third holiest site in Islam, the esplanade is built on what Jews call the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism, in East Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel.

Friction or clashes between Israelis and Palestinians are frequent there, and several foreign chancelleries have expressed concern in recent weeks about possible violence on the occasion of Ramadan, during which Passover falls this year (early April), while the Israeli conflict -Palestinian is experiencing a new spiral of violence.

According to official Israeli sources, the crowd on the esplanade was estimated at some 83,000 people on Friday. Azzam al-Khatib, director general of the Jordanian Waqf, the authority responsible for Muslim places of worship in Jerusalem, puts forward the figure of 100,000 worshipers gathered for prayer.

“The prayer went peacefully and everything went well,” he told AFP.

The Israel Police said it deployed 2,300 officers to Jerusalem.

On the esplanade, while the faithful flock with their prayer mat in hand, we take a picture with our phone in front of the golden dome of the Mosque of Omar, the oldest Islamic place of worship in the world.

In the crowd, an AFP photographer saw a masked man waving a banner of the armed wing of Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist movement described as a “terrorist” by Israel. A giant poster of Hamas was also unrolled on one of the porticoes of the esplanade.

In the late afternoon, the Israeli police released a video showing a member of the security forces perched on a ladder removing this poster and two other flags of Palestinian armed organizations hanging from the same gate.

From the early morning, the crowd had rushed to the crossing points of Qalandia in the north of the Holy City, and Bethlehem in the south to be able to be on time for the midday prayer.

“Ramadan is the most important month of the year and nothing means more to me than Al-Aqsa Mosque,” said Aboud Hassan, 62, from Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, “and no one can prevent us” from praying there.

Built at the southern end of the esplanade, this mosque is associated in Muslim tradition with the episode of Muhammad’s night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem.

“Thank God the prayers went well today,” he adds.

Israeli authorities have announced an easing of restrictions on Palestinians entering Jerusalem for Ramadan, but Ibtissam Barrak, a 25-year-old teacher, complains that “almost all roads are closed”.

“Of course we fear an escalation [of violence], she told AFP, but we hope that Ramadan will pass without it, that there will be calm and peace and that Muslims can come [pray] on the esplanade without there being any problems between Jews and Arabs. »