Israel on high alert at holy shrine
JERUSALEM, Middle East — Israel sent extra police into Jerusalem on Friday and said men under the age of 50 would be banned from the Old City’s Al-Aqsa mosque for the day in anticipation of more mass protests.
Tensions have been high at the compound for two weeks, often erupting into clashes, after two Israeli police officers were killed there, prompting Israel to install metal detectors at the entrance to the site and a subsequent Muslim boycott.
Under immense diplomatic pressure, Israel removed the metal detectors on Thursday, a move welcomed by the Arab world, but violence quickly returned when thousands of Muslim worshippers surged into the mosque.
On Thursday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said around 100 people were wounded inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and in adjacent areas of the Old City after clashes erupted, with police saying stones had been thrown at officers inside the compound.
Thousands of worshippers earlier streamed into the compound for afternoon prayers for the first time in two weeks. Muslims had in previous days refused to enter the compound and prayed in the streets outside.
Before Israel removed the new security apparatus, Pal- estinian factions had called for a “day of rage” on Friday.
“Security assessments were made and there are indications that disturbances and demonstrations will take place today,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“Extra police and border police are in and around the Old City and will respond to any disturbances.”
He said women of all ages will be allowed into the site, referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City and the holy compound, in the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the area in a move that has never been recognized internationally.
Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine, sits on a tree-lined marble plateau in the heart of the Old City. It is also the holiest place in Judaism — the venue of two ancient temples, the last destroyed by the Romans. Jews pray under heavy security at the Western Wall at the foot of the elevated plaza.
The dispute, like many in the Holy Land, is about more than security devices, taking in issues of sovereignty, religious freedom, occupation and Palestinian nationalism.
Pedestrians perch on window ledges to escape floods caused by heavy downpours in Besiktas near Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday.
A young Palestinian refuels during a protest in Gaza over security measures at Al-Aqsa mosque.