JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli police said they were barring men under 50 from entering Jerusalem’s Old City for Friday Muslim prayers as tensions rose over new security measures at a supersensitive holy site.
“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.
Tensions have risen after Israeli police installed metal detectors at entrances to the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, following an attack nearby that killed two policemen.
The move angered Palestinian and other Muslims who saw it as Israel asserting further control over the site.
Palestinians have been refusing to enter the compound since then, and hundreds have been holding prayers outside, with clashes occasionally breaking out with Israeli police.
The main weekly prayers on Fridays draw the largest number of worshippers, and speculation had been mounting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might order the metal detectors removed before this week’s prayers.
But after consultations with security chiefs and members of the security cabinet, Netanyahu decided not to remove them.
An Israeli official said the security cabinet “has given police the authority to make any decision to ensure free access to holy sites while maintaining security and public order.”