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Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Calm, But Tensions Simmer

  • VOA News

Select Muslims prayed at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque without incident Friday, but scattered violence between Palestinians and Israeli security forces elsewhere underscored tensions building in recent weeks over the disputed holy site on which al-Aqsa sits.

Isolated incidents of Palestinians burning cars and throwing rocks at Israeli forces took place in Arab areas of Jerusalem and at a major crossing between Israel and the West Bank.

VOA correspondent Scott Bobb in Jerusalem says the presence of hundreds of Israeli troops outside al-Aqsa's compound allowed for midday prayers to go ahead peacefully. He said the mood Friday was distinctly calmer than in recent days, which saw a car attack on pedestrians in the city, and a clash between Israeli police and dozens of Palestinians after Jewish nationalists announced plans to visit the compound that contains al-Aqsa mosque.

Violence Building

An Israeli hospital official said Friday a second Israeli died after the car attack on pedestrians in East Jerusalem. Israeli police said a Palestinian driver deliberately rammed into a crowd Wednesday, killing a police officer and wounding several more people. Police fatally shot the driver when he got out of the vehicle. It was the second such attack in two weeks.

Despite calls for increased Jewish access to the site by his hardline allies, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reaffirmed the status quo remained in effect. Jews are not allowed to pray at the ancient compound, known as the Temple Mount to Jews, and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary.

Israel granted access to the mosque to all Muslim women and men over the age of 35 Friday, a somewhat lower cut-off age than it normally grants.

Anger in Jordan

In a move that drew international ire and triggered Jordan to recall its ambassador, Israel briefly closed al-Aqsa mosque last week amid growing unrest after police killed a suspected Palestinian gunman in a nearby Arab neighborhood.

Anger continued Friday in Jordan, official custodian of the compound. Reuters news agency reported several thousand protesters rallied across the kingdom, calling for an end to the country's peace deal with Israel.