10/07/2005, 00.00
HOLY LAND
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Ramadan amid prayers and threats

With more than two thousands Israeli security personnel deployed, the faithful are coming in great number to pray at the Esplanade of the Mosques. At the same time, Iran and Hamas are making threatening noises.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Muslim faithful are coming in their tens of thousands to Jerusalem's Esplanade of the Mosques for the great prayer on the first Friday of Ramadan. Israeli security forces have deployed about 2,500 officers in the heart of the Old City to prevent incidents. So far none has happened.

Security-conscious Israeli authorities have authorised Palestinian men over 45 from the West Bank to join the prayer on the Esplanade.

Muslim religious authorities in charge of Islam's third most sacred site estimate that more than 50,000 people have come for the prayer.

Concern about possible attacks remains high however as Iran's ultraconservative ayatollah Ahmad Dannati said in a speech today that "it is the duty of Iranian Muslims to organise a rally in Jerusalem on the last Friday of Ramadan that will surpass those of previous years as response to those who betrayed Islam".

This is a direct reference to those Muslim countries, in particular Pakistan, who stand accused of entertaining secret diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

"With Allah's help, the only country in the world that can and must line up against the crimes of Israel," the Muslim clergyman said, "is the Islamic Republic of Iran".

The rally by Iranian Muslims will "be a real opportunity to show solidarity with the Palestinian cause".

In Gaza Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar told an Arab news agency that his organisation is planning the Strip's future.

"If Hamas were to win control of the Palestinian Authority in coming elections, it would ban men and women from dancing together and deny specific rights to gay people," Zahar said.

Predicting that under Hamas any Palestinian state would be a strictly Islamic one, he suggested that a Hamas-run Palestine would gradually outlaw co-operation with Israel.

On Israel's demand to PNA President Mahmoud Abbas that Hamas not be allowed to take part in elections in January, Dr Zahar said: "Israel [. . .] was defeated, and those who are defeated cannot set conditions."

According to Hamas's propaganda, Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was only due to its fighters' armed struggle.

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