Following protests, tension ran high Friday as prayers were held at a disputed Jerusalem holy site that is sacred to Muslims and Jews.
The muezzin summoned Muslims to Friday prayers at the Mosque of al-Aqsa in Jerusalem’s Old City, as thousands of Israeli police and soldiers stood deployed amid fears of violent protests by Palestinians. In a bid to forestall riots, Israel banned men under the age of 50 from entering the mosque, located in a compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
One Palestinian said that while he was able to enter the mosque, his brothers and children were not. He accused Israel of discriminating against Muslims and violating freedom of worship.
Nevertheless, the Israeli clampdown worked and outside of minor disturbances, widely anticipated mass Palestinian unrest did not materialize.
Tensions have soared in Jerusalem the last two weeks since Israel installed metal detectors and cameras at the al-Aqsa Mosque in response to the killing of two Israeli policemen there by Arab gunmen. Palestinians refused to enter the compound through Israeli security and on the streets held tense prayer protests, which at times turned into riots.
On Thursday, Israel removed the last of the remaining security measures in an attempt to restore calm. Palestinians ended their boycott and returned to the mosque, but clashes quickly erupted with police.
Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, says that is why authorities restricted entry into the holy place.
He said the heavy deployment of security forces was aimed at keeping the peace in Jerusalem, and he warned that any Palestinian violence would be met with a stern response.