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Men under 50 banned from entering Jerusalem's Old City for Muslim prayers as tensions rise

Tensions have risen following an attack nearby that killed two policemen.

Israeli border police officers detain a Palestinian demonstrator during a protest against the metal detectors placed at the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Israeli border police officers detain a Palestinian demonstrator during a protest against the metal detectors placed at the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Image: AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean

ISRAELI POLICE SAID they were barring men under 50 from entering Jerusalem’s Old City for Friday Muslim prayers as tensions rose over new security measures at a super sensitive holy site.

“Entry to the Old City and Temple Mount will be limited to men aged 50 and over. Women of all ages will be permitted,” a police statement said.

Tensions have risen after Israeli police installed metal detectors at entrances to the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, following an attack nearby that killed two policemen.

The move angered Palestinian and other Muslims who saw it as Israel asserting further control over the site.

Palestinians have been refusing to enter the compound since then, and hundreds have been holding prayers outside, with clashes occasionally breaking out with Israeli police.

The main weekly prayers on Fridays draw the largest number of worshippers, and speculation had been mounting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might order the metal detectors removed before this week’s prayers.

Jerusalem Holy Site A Palestinian man walks towards a metal detector at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. Source: AP/PA Images

But after consultations with security chiefs and members of the security cabinet, Netanyahu decided not to remove them.

An Israeli official said the security cabinet “has given police the authority to make any decision to ensure free access to holy sites while maintaining security and public order”.

Tensions 

Israel’s army boosted security yesterday and braced for possible unrest on the eve of the main weekly Muslim prayers after the security measures angered Palestinians.

Officials were reportedly in talks to defuse the crisis, which followed a deadly attack on police last Friday near the site that includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Two Israeli policemen were killed in a knife and gun attack in the area last week. Three Arab Israeli assailants fled to the compound after the attack, where they were shot dead by security forces.

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Jerusalem: Muslims hold protests outside Lion's Gate Source: AP Photo/Louise Wateridge

As tensions mounted yesterday, 22 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces, two of them seriously after being hit by rubber bullets, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

An Israeli police spokesman said officers had responded after Palestinians leaving prayers pelted the security forces with stones and bottles at the Old City’s Lion Gate.

In the Gaza Strip, Islamist movement Hamas, called for a day of “rage” today in protest.

The United States and United Nations expressed concern, with the White House calling on Israel and Jordan, the holy site’s custodian, to work toward a solution.

© – AFP, 2017

Read: Two Israeli police killed in Jerusalem shooting

Read: Ireland is giving €200,000 to support Palestinians in the West Bank

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