Middle East

Jerusalem tension: Israel ends age limit on holy site access

Temple Mount map

Israel says it will allow men of all ages into Jerusalem's holy site complex, after months of restrictions.

The restrictions on Muslim male worshippers were imposed after tension and unrest in the city between Israel and the Palestinians.

Extra police units were deployed in the city before Friday prayers, spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

Israel said the decision was linked to agreements reached during talks between Israel, the US and Jordan in Amman.

Jordan is the custodian of the compound, which includes the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque.

The compound - known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif - is the holiest site in Judaism, while the al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Palestinian youths clash with Israeli security forces in the West Bank town of Hebron

An 18-year-old man called Amir told Agence France-Presse news agency that Friday was the first time he had been allowed into the compound since July.

"It's been four months that I haven't been able to pray at al-Aqsa on Friday, even during the holy month of Ramadan," he said.

In recent weeks, Israeli police have barred Muslim men under 35 from the site.

Kerry talks

Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging the long-standing ban on Jews praying at the compound.

A prominent rabbi and leading campaigner was shot and wounded by a Palestinian in Jerusalem last month.

Tensions were also increased by two deadly attacks by Palestinian militants on pedestrians in the city and announcements by Israel of plans to build more settler homes in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967.

The decision to end the age limit came after US Secretary of State John Kerry met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah II to try to ease tensions in Jerusalem.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have blamed each other for the recent unrest in the city.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem during clashes with Palestinian protesters