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Peaceful Jerusalem Prayers Amid West Bank Clashes

  • VOA News

Palestinian activists use ladders to cross over the Israeli separation barrier to pray on Friday at the al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, Nov. 14, 2014.

Palestinian activists use ladders to cross over the Israeli separation barrier to pray on Friday at the al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, Nov. 14, 2014.

Israeli police say a Jerusalem holy site at the heart of recent tensions between Israelis and Palestinians was quiet on Friday, after Muslims of all ages were allowed to worship there.

Israel had restricted worship at the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the al-Aqsa Mosque, to people 35 and older, fearing youths would stir up violence. Thousands of people attended prayers on Friday at the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Holy City without incident.

But clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters continued in the West Bank.

At a checkpoint near the city of Ramallah, Palestinians burned tires and threw stones at security forces who responded by firing riot dispersal weapons into the air. In Hebron, Hamas supporters hurled stones at Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

There were no reports of casualties.

The decision to lift the age restrictions was announced after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah.

Kerry said all sides assured him they are committed to restoring calm and taking what he called "real steps" instead of just rhetoric. He did not give any details of those steps.

Commenting about the chances of reviving Middle East peace talks, Kerry said this is not the right time for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to hold face-to-face negotiations.

Under a long-standing agreement, Jews can visit the Temple Mount, but not openly pray there, to avoid offending Arabs. Some Jews have been pushing for an expansion of the right to worship at the site.

Earlier this month, a Palestinian gunman seriously wounded a U.S.-born rabbi after a conference on greater rights at the Temple Mount. Israeli police shot and killed the gunman.

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