Palestinians under 45 not Allowed to Enter Aqsa Mosque for Friday Prayers
Israeli police fearing fresh outbreaks of Palestinian street protests were stopping men aged under 45 from entering Jerusalem's mosque compound where thousands of Muslims were gathering for Friday prayers.
"Men of under 45 are not authorized to ender the compound this Friday," a police spokesman said.
He said police had "deployed in force" in Jerusalem's Old City, particularly around the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied east Jerusalem, which is Islam's third holiest site.
Israeli security forces were also enforcing a strict blockade of the Palestinian territories following Thursday's violence, which brought the two sides to the brink of open war.
The measures were expected to sharply reduce the number of Muslims able to gather at the mosque, where Friday prayers last week were followed by fighting in the Old City in which a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was killed.
The Palestinians, and much of the outside world, blame the wave of unrest that has rocked the Palestinian territories for the past two weeks on a visit to al-Aqsa by the hardline Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, now set to join a "government of national emergency" proclaimed by Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
Seven Palestinians were shot dead in clashes with soldiers at the mosque the day after Sharon's visit, which Palestinians said "defiled" the site.
Al-Aqsa stands above the vestiges of the Jewish temple destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans, which is Judaism's holiest site. Its future is the subject of a bitter dispute over sovereignty in Jerusalem.
More than 100 people have died in clashes in the ensuing two weeks, most of them Palestinians – JERUSALEM (AFP)
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