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In unprecedented move, Israeli police shut down Jerusalem Old City after attack

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. file photo, Palestinians pray during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, near the Dome of the Rock Mosque. Israeli police are reporting new unrest at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site
AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean, File
The last time Friday prayers on the Temple Mount were canceled was in 1969, reported local media

In a virtually unprecedented move, Israeli authorities shuttered the gates to Jerusalem's Old City on Friday, hours after an attack left two Israeli policemen dead.

Almost all shops were closed, with lost and confused tourists wandering the ghost town streets, reported Haaretz.

Friday is the Muslim holy day and usually the Old City is jam-packed with pilgrims and worshippers going to and fro the Temple Mount.

According to Haaretz, a few clashes broke out in Jerusalem after the morning attack. In Silwan, a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood, a Jewish couple and their baby suffered from smoke inhalation after someone chucked a firebomb at their vehicle.

Tensions rang high between Palestinian residents in east Jerusalem and the Israeli police. A mass prayer took place outside Lions' Gate. There, Jerusalem's mufti - the leading Muslim cleric - was arrested.

When asked when was the last time Friday prayers on the Temple Mount were canceled, officials from the Waqf - the Muslim religious trust that administers the site - referred back to 1969, reported Haaretz.

At the time, police blocked prayer and access to the Temple Mount after an Australian citizen tried torching the site's mosque.

And during the second Intifada, sometimes worshippers under the age of 60 could not pray at the site, reported Haaretz. According to Knesset Member Mickey Levy, who then served as the Jerusalem police district commander, he couldn't recall a time when prayers were not held at all on the site.

The Jerusalem district chief, Yoram Halevy, and Police Commissioner Maj. Gen. Roni Alsheich along with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, took a risk in closing the Old City and the Temple Mount.

As one of the holiest sites in the Islamic faith, any closure of the Temple Mount - or what Muslims call Haram al-Sharif - could engender passions and anger.

The most recent instance when the Temple Mount was closed to Muslims was after the assassination attempt of right-wing activist and now Knesset Member Yehuda Glick in 2014. 



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