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Al-Aqsa: Israel bars Muslim men under 50 amid protests

News - Middle East

In announcement hours before expected mass protests, police say men under age of 50 will not be allowed at holy site.


Israeli police said on Friday that Muslim men under the age of 50 will not be allowed at al-Aqsa compound, in an announcement made hours ahead of expected mass protests.

Palestinians have planned fresh demonstrations over new security measures at the holy site in occupied East Jerusalem, a week after a deadly shoot-out at the compound that triggered heightened tensions.

"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.

Police poured into Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods in the morning, particularly in an around the walled Old City where the shrine is located.

Israel's security cabinet said that Israeli police would decide when to remove metal detectors and turnstiles at the compound installed last week, a disappointing statement to Palestinians who view the measures as collective punishment and infringement of the status quo at the site.

Israel tightened its grip on the compound after two Israeli security officers were killed in an alleged attack by three Palestinians, who were killed by Israeli police following the violence. 

There have been daily demonstrations and clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received recommendations from different sectors of Israel's security services on the metal detectors.

Israel's internal security service, Shin Bet, said the barriers should be removed, while Jerusalem police insisted they stay.

'Day of anger'

The Palestinian group Hamas and Muslim leaders worldwide have called for mass protests on Friday over the security measures.

On Wednesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya warned Israel against crossing a "red line" at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

"To the Zionist enemy I say openly and clearly: al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem are red lines. Truly they are red lines," he said.

"To the enemy I say, your policy of closure and imposition of collective punishments against the residents of Jerusalem and our places of sanctity will not be tolerated.”

The Doha-based International Union of Muslim scholars called for all Muslims to show solidarity with worshippers at al-Aqsa in a "day of anger".

"We call on all Muslims to make this Friday a day of anger against the Zionist actions in Jerusalem and the people residing there," a statement by the group read.

Earlier this week, Jerusalem's top Muslim leader called on all of the city's mosques to close on Friday and encourage worshippers to gather outside the gates of al-Aqsa Mosque for weekly Friday prayers.

Grand Mufti Muhammad Hussein said Palestinian Muslims should instead gather outside the gates of al-Aqsa Mosque for the weekly Friday prayers.

The wider al-Aqsa compound is known as al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, by Muslims and the Temple Mount by Jews.

The wider al-Aqsa compound is known as al-Haram al-Sharif

Abbas calls for intervention

Netanyahu said this week that he does not want to alter the status quo, which gives Muslims religious control over the compound and Jews the right to visit, but not pray there. 

But Palestinians fear Israel is trying to retake the site by stealth.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cut short a trip to China on Wednesday to return to the occupied West Bank to deal with the mounting tensions.

On Wednesday he urged the international community to intervene.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had spoken to Abbas by phone earlier in the day, urged his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin to remove the detectors.

"Given the importance that Haram al-Sharif carries for the whole Islamic world, the metal detectors put in place by Israel should be removed in the shortest possible time and an end put to the tension," Erdogan said.

The site houses al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, Islam's third holiest site after Mecca and Medina, as well as the ruins of the Biblical Jewish Temple.

Questions about control of the site frequently lead to outbursts of fighting.

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