Al Aqsa mosque: Police ban men under 50 from prayers at Jerusalem's holiest site

Restrictions do not apply to women trying to visit the shrine

Friday 28 July 2017 06:36
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An Israeli police officer aims his weapon at Palestinians during clashes at the Al Aqsa Mosque
An Israeli police officer aims his weapon at Palestinians during clashes at the Al Aqsa Mosque

Israeli police say men under the age of 50 will be barred from a major Jerusalem shrine at the centre of recent tensions.

Authorities were on high alert on Friday ahead of Muslim prayers at the holy site.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld announced the ban, which he said followed security assessments indicting Palestinians planned protests there. There are no restrictions on women.

Mr Rosenfeld said some Palestinians barricaded themselves inside Al-Aqsa Mosque overnight in order to join protests later. Police removed them after they refused to leave, he said.

Friday prayers are the highlight of the Muslim religious week. Thousands of Muslims from around Israel and Palestinian areas typically worship at the holy compound in Jerusalem's Old City.

Tensions have been running high at the site since Arab gunmen killed two police officers on 14 July, prompting Israel to install metal detectors and other security devices.

The move outraged Muslims who claimed Israel was trying to expand its control over the site.

Israel emphatically denied the allegations insisting the security measures were needed to prevent more attacks.

The issue sparked some of the worst street clashes in years and threatened to draw Israel into conflict with other Arab and Muslim nations.

Under intense pressure, Israel removed the metal detectors and said it planned to install sophisticated security cameras instead.

Muslims had been praying in the streets outside the shrine to protest the security measures since they were installed. They returned to pray at the sacred site on Thursday after Israel removed them.

However, violence resumed as Palestinians gathering for prayers at the compound clashed with police.

Palestinian factions Fatah and the Islamic militant group Hamas both issued calls earlier this week for mass protests on Friday.

AP

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