Worshipers stream toward al-Aqsa after Israel lifts age restriction
AHMAD GHARABLI (AFP)
Israel on Friday lifted their restriction on men under the age of 50 being allowed to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif holy site, and hundreds flooded into the area even as police gird for renewed clashes during evening prayers.
Large groups of young Palestinians headed for the site, some cheering in celebration, i24NEWS correspondents said. Shortly after, police confirmed they had lifted the age restriction, saying it was only intended for midday prayers.
Earlier in the day four Palestinians were injured as clashes erupted in Jerusalem's Wadi Joz Arab neighborhood and around the Old City on Friday, but were quickly halted by Israeli security forces. A Palestinian teen in Gaza also died after apparently being hit by Israeli fire near the border.
Protesters threw rocks at police as security forces responded with stun grenade which dispersed the crowd. Israeli police remained on high alert throughout the city amid a rolling crisis over access to al-Aqsa, which was not quelled even after Israel removed the security measures that were the original cause of the unrest.
Later Friday, police announced that three masked Palestinians were arrested during undercover operations for their involvement in riots against security forces in the West Bank.
Israeli police said they would bar men under 50 from Friday Muslim prayers at the sensitive Jerusalem holy site after clashes erupted as Palestinians ended a boycott of the compound the previous day.
"Security assessments were made and there are indications that disturbances and demonstrations will take place today," police said in a statement of the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
"Only men over the age of 50 will be permitted and women of all ages are permitted. A number of roads around the Old City will be limited to access and all necessary security measures are being taken to prevent and to respond to any outbreak of violence."
"It is not about metal detectors and cameras, but the sovereignty over Al--Aqsa: the battle over Jerusalem has begun," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said late on Thursday referring to the unrest at the Temple Mount.
A tense standoff has been underway between Israel and Muslim worshipers at the holy site despite the removal of metal detectors on Tuesday, with concerns of major unrest later this week if no resolution is found.
Newly installed railings and scaffolding where cameras were previously mounted have now also been removed from at least one main entrance to the Temple Mount, which many Palestinians celebrated as victory over the Jewish State.
Israel installed the new security measures after an attack nearby that killed two policemen on July 14.
Israeli police braced for further violence Friday ahead of the main weekly Muslim prayers. Many more are expected -- which typically draw thousands to Al-Aqsa.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Thursday reported around 100 people wounded both inside Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and in the immediate area.
Outside, clashes in one area erupted when a group of policemen walked in the middle of a crowd. Palestinians threw plastic bottles and Israeli forces fired stun grenades.
Israeli police said stones were thrown at officers inside the compound.
"Upon the entry of worshipers into the Temple Mount compound, some began throwing stones at officers, during which some stones fell into the Western Wall plaza," Israeli police said in a statement, referring to the Jewish holy site below the compound.
"A police force at the site pushed back those disrupting the orders using riot dispersal means. An officer was hit by a stone on his head. He was treated at the site."
Thousands of worshipers earlier streamed into the compound for afternoon prayers for the first time in two weeks, ending a boycott after Israel removed controversial new security measures, installed after a July 14 attack killed two policemen.
Some cried as they entered while others shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest). Some brought their children in what was initially a celebratory atmosphere.
Muslims had in previous days refused to enter the compound and prayed in the streets outside after Israel installed the new security measures.
Palestinians viewed the move as Israel asserting further control over the site.
Israeli authorities said the measures, including metal detectors, were needed because the July 14 attackers smuggled guns into the compound and emerged from it to attack the officers.
For evening prayers later Thursday following the clashes, it appeared Israeli police were allowing people to leave the compound, but not enter through at least one main gate.
The United States said it welcomed "the efforts undertaken to de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem today".
"Calm and security will create the best opportunity to return to dialogue and the pursuit of peace," read a statement by Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations.
You need to be logged in in order to post comments. Sign up or log in