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UN Chief 'Concerned' as Tensions Persist in Jerusalem

Israeli police officers walk outside the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, July 25, 2017.
Israeli police officers walk outside the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, July 25, 2017.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he is concerned about the risk of violence escalating in the Old City of Jerusalem and called on Israel "to demonstrate restraint.''

Guterres' statement was issued after rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas issued calls for mass protests by Muslims against Israel on Friday over security measures installed at a contested site.

The U.N. chief called on "all political, religious and community leaders to refrain from provocative action and rhetoric."

Tensions have been high in Jerusalem for a week, triggered by Israel's decision to install new security measures, including metal detectors and cameras, at a major shrine in Jerusalem's Old City in response to a July 14 attack by Arab gunmen who killed two Israeli police guards.

For many Muslims, the new security measures were just the latest proof of their suspicions that Israel gradually wants to expand its control over the holy site, known to Muslims Al Aqsa Mosque and to Jews as Temple Mount.

Hoping to calm days of unrest, Israel removed the metal detectors and security cameras but they were to be replaced with "advanced technologies" -- widely believed to be smart cameras with facial recognition technology.

Refusing to pass through the metal detectors, Muslims have held prayer services outside Jerusalem's Old City Lions Gate every night as a form of protest.

In Washington, the State Department said while the U.S. supports measures that would de-escalate tensions, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to decide what works to maintain the status quo of the holy site.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Tuesday answered a reporter's question about whether the cameras are a step in the right direction.

"We will leave it to those parties to determine what works for them," she said. "Unfortunately, and as goes with the peace process, ultimately it's their decision to make. Both parties have to be able to live with it and be able to work with it," she said.

Separately late Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wanted to expel Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera from Israel because it "continues to incite violence around the Temple Mount."

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