Israel allows Jerusalem mosque access despite Palestinian "day of rage"

Israeli security forces have beefed up in Jerusalem but no restrictions were imposed concerning attending Al Aqsa Mosque services.

December 8, 2017 11:31
2 minute read.
ramadan jerusalem mosque aqsa

A Palestinian man reads the Koran in al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City during the holy month of Ramadan. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)


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JERUSALEM - Israeli police preparing for a Palestinian "day of rage" increased their presence in Jerusalem on Friday but set no extra restrictions on access for worshippers at the flashpoint Al Aqsa Mosque, saying they had no indication of unrest there.

Palestinian factions have called for demonstrations in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has urged Palestinians to launch a new uprising.

Thousands of protesters in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia joined protest rallies on Friday and authorities there tightened security outside U.S. embassies. On Thursday at least 31 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank and over the Israel-Gaza border. Protests also took place in Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Tunisia.

At times of heightened tension between Israel and the Palestinians, violence has often erupted after Friday prayers at the Jerusalem compound where Al Aqsa is located, atop a hill known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Frequently Israel has imposed age restrictions to the site, when it has expected clashes.

"We have no indication there will be disturbances on the mount therefore there is no age restriction. If there will be disturbances then we will respond immediately," Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Reuters.

Rosenfeld said the police had stepped up their forces in the city. On Thursday, the Israeli military began reinforcing troops in the West Bank.

Trump's reversal of decades of U.S. policy on Wednesday, when he also announced his administration would begin a process of moving the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, has infuriated the Arab world and upset Western allies.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital. Palestinians want the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state of their own. Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed, to be occupied territory, including the Old City, home to sites considered holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians.

For decades, Washington, like most of the rest of the international community, held back from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, arguing that its status should be determined as part of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. No other country has its embassy there.

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