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Deadly Clashes as Palestinians Protest at Disputed Jerusalem Holy Place

Israeli border police officers detain a Palestinian during clashes in Jerusalem, July 21, 2017.

At least two Palestinians were killed Friday in east Jerusalem after neighborhood clashes broke out Friday over a disputed Jerusalem holy place sacred to Muslims and Jews.

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli police near the Mosque of al-Aqsa in Jerusalem’s Old City, the site Jews call the Temple Mount. Palestinian leaders called for a day of rage to protest Israel’s installation of metal detectors at the holy place, after three Arab gunmen killed two Israeli policemen at the site a week ago.

News agencies said two Palestinians have been shot dead, and Agence France Presse is reporting a third may also have been killed

Fearing riots, Israel banned Muslims under the age of 50 from attending Friday prayers at the mosque, which marks the third holiest place in Islam. Worshippers who were turned away from the holy place were outraged.

“This is crazy and it violates freedom of worship,” said an Arab citizen of Israel, adding that the metal detectors are humiliating to Muslims. He described it as a “black Friday.”

But Israel says Muslims crossed a red line when they brought firearms into the holy place and the metal detectors are necessary to prevent further acts of terrorism.

“Every holy, sensitive place in the world is protected," said Yaakov Perry, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service. "Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the Vatican in Rome and many other holy places are tightly secured. And I don’t think that if Israel will add some tools to tighten security it’s a change of the status quo, and I hope it will prevail.”

In the past, tensions over the holy place have led to explosions of violence, including the Second Palestinian Uprising which erupted in the year 2000. But Israel deployed 3,000 police and soldiers in and around Jerusalem’s Old City, and they were able to keep the situation under control.