Palestinians pray at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa after month-long age restrictions

Palestinians pray at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa after month-long age restrictions
3 min read
23 October, 2015
For the first time in a month, Palestinian Muslims performed Friday prayers at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, one month after Israel introduced age-restrictions at the house of worship.

Palestinian Muslims of all ages performed Friday prayers at al-Aqsa mosque for the first time in a month, when outbreaks of violence broke out in Jerusalem.

Since mid-September, Israeli police had barred younger Muslim men from the site, which is revered by both Muslims and Jews and is a source of soaring Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Police have said such bans were imposed to prevent clashes at the Muslim-run mosque.

Friday prayers ended without peacefully, AP reported.

Palestinians viewed the age restrictions as part of Israeli attempts to expand its presence at the site, a claim Israel has repeatedly denied.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says age limits were lifted Friday, following security assessments.

The decision came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in an attempt to lower tensions.

Kerry is to meet over the weekend with Jordan's King Abdullah II, the custodian of the shrine, and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli attacks on al-Aqsa: Click to enlarge

Stabbings and shootings

Israeli forces shot and wounded a Palestinian after allegedly stabbing and lightly wounding a soldier in the occupied West Bank on Friday, the army said.

"An assailant stabbed an [Israeli] soldier during operational activity adjacent to the security fence in Gush Etzion," a Jewish settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, an army statement said.

"The force responded, firing towards the assailant."

A military spokeswoman told AFP the soldier stabbed was a Bedouin tracker who had opened a gate to enable Palestinians to harvest their olive trees.

Palestinian security forces identified the man shot by Israel forces as Mussab Ghanimat, 17, from the nearby village of Sureif.

The hospital treating the soldier said he was stabbed in the shoulder and in light condition. A spokeswoman for the hospital treating Ghanimat said he was in moderate condition and conscious.

On Thursday, two men from Sureif stabbed a man in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh before being shot. One of them was killed and the other wounded.

There has been a spate of stabbings this month - mostly by young Palestinians - against soldiers, police or Israelis.

Since October 1, at least 49 Palestinians and one Israeli Palestinian have been killed, including alleged attackers. Eight Israelis have been killed in attacks.

One Israeli Jew and one Eritrean have also been killed after being mistaken for Palestinians.

House demolition

Israel's High Court has issued injunctions blocking the demolition of six West Bank homes belonging to Palestinians accused of killing Israelis.

Netanyahu earlier this month pledged to expedite punitive house demolitions, as part of measures to combat a recent wave of violence.

Since October 15, Israeli authorities have issued nine demolition orders for homes of suspected Palestinian militants in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The army had been set Thursday to demolish the homes of the alleged Palestinian killers of two Israelis shot in the occupied West Bank on 1 October, as well as those accused of murdering two Israelis in June.

But following petitions by family members and neighbours, the court issued "temporary orders" preventing the structures from being demolished or confiscated.

Israeli rights group Hamoked, which filed the petitions, said a court hearing on the issue was set for 29 October.

Home demolitions were "disproportionate, and lacked balance between the alleged benefit of deterring potential assailants and the harm caused by demolishing the homes of entire families," Hamoked said.

Following the court's injunction, Netanyahu stressed home demolitions were "one of the most efficient tools" in discouraging Palestinian attacks, even in the case of suicide attackers, and expressed hope the court would rule on the issue as soon as possible.