Is­rael on high alert at holy shrine

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

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.

BU­LENT KILIC / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Pedes­tri­ans perch on win­dow ledges to es­cape floods caused by heavy down­pours in Be­sik­tas near Is­tan­bul, Turkey, on Thurs­day.

MO­HAMMED SALEM / REUTERS

A young Pales­tinian re­fu­els dur­ing a protest in Gaza over se­cu­rity mea­sures at Al-Aqsa mosque.

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