90k Palestinians attend historic mosque for Eid, Gaza residents pray near Israel border

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GAZA CITY: More than 90,000 thousand Palestinians have worshipped at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for Eid Al-Fitr prayers.

The Mufti of Jerusalem criticized US President Donald Trump’s peace plan in his sermon there.

Sheikh Muhammad Hussein said Friday, “this is an unfair plan that aims at the liquidation of the Palestinian cause.”

Trump has promised the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians and is expected to unveil the plan soon.

Trump’s relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this year angered Palestinians who view the move as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict. Palestinians say it disqualifies the US as Mideast peace broker.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, sacred home to Jews, Muslims and Christians, in the 1967 war from Jordan.

Several thousand Gaza worshippers knelt on prayer rugs spread on sandy soil, near the perimeter fence with Israel, joining hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world Friday in marking the holiday that caps the fasting month of Ramadan.

The three-day Eid Al-Fitr holiday is traditionally a time of family visits and festive meals, with children getting new clothes, haircuts and gifts. In the Palestinian territories, celebrations were once again marred by prolonged conflict in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

In Gaza, an Israeli drone attacked a tent used to prepare kites and balloons rigged with incendiary devices for launch into Israel, a witness said. The balloons and kites are the latest tactic in weeks-long protests against a blockade of Gaza, imposed by Israel and Egypt after the 2007 takeover of the territory by the Hamas group. Since late March, more than 120 protesters have been killed and more than 3,800 wounded by Israeli army fire in the area of the fence.

Israel’s military said Friday evening that just a few dozen Palestinians protested at the barrier during the day, a sharp contrast to previous weeks.

Earlier Friday, several thousand Gaza worshippers performed the traditional morning prayers of the holiday in areas several hundred meters away from the fence.

Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader, joined worshippers in an area east of Gaza City. Some activists later approached the fence, burning tires.

The protests have been organized by Hamas, but turnout has been driven by growing despair in Gaza about blockade-linked hardships; unemployment now approaches 50 percent and electricity is on for just a few hours every day.

Hamas has also billed the protests as the “Great March of Return,” suggesting they would somehow pave the way for a return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants — about two-thirds of Gaza’s residents — to return to ancestral homes in what is now Israel.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled or fled in the Mideast war over Israel’s 1948 creation.

Haniyeh told reporters after Friday’s prayers, which were also being held outdoors in another location east of the town of Khan Younis, that protests would continue.

He said a recent UN General Assembly resolution blaming Israel for the Gaza violence “shows that the marches of return and breaking the siege revived the Palestinian issue and imposed the issue on the international agenda.” The resolution also said Israel had used excessive force against Palestinian protesters.

Israel says it is defending its territory and civilians living near Gaza. It has accused Hamas of using the protests as cover for damaging the fence and trying to carry out cross-border attacks. Israel and Egypt argue that the blockade is needed to contain Hamas which has a history of violence and refuses to disarm.

In Jerusalem, senior Muslim cleric Muhammad Hussein told tens of thousands of worshippers that a plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, expected to be unveiled by the Trump administration, is unfair and “aims at the liquidation of the Palestinian cause.”

President Donald Trump has promised to negotiate the “ultimate deal” but the plan’s reported — though unconfirmed — parameters have been dismissed by the Palestinians as favoring Israel.

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