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Tensions soar after fresh clashes in Jerusalem

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Tensions continued to run high in Jerusalem on Friday as fresh local clashes broke out and Israel beefed up security forces ahead of several religious holidays next week.

Clashes erupted on Friday between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police officers as hundreds of young Palestinian men were barred from entering the Old City of Jerusalem and weekly prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque, Xinhua reported.

Israeli police instructed that only Palestinian men above forty could pray at the Al Aqsa mosque on Friday, a measure usually taken when there are high tensions and fears that young worshippers would try to inflame the atmosphere.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem’s police department said protesters hurled stones and firebomb at policemen, who used riots control to disperse the crowd.

One Palestinian man was arrested following the incident and no injuries were reported.

Ahead of the upcoming Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur on Wednesday, which coincides with the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, Israel feared further trouble and beefed up its security deployment in Jerusalem on Friday at the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Israel deployed around 5,000 policemen in Jerusalem, with hundreds more added in the morning amid escalating tensions surrounding the flashpoint site of Temple Mount, home to the Al Aqsa mosque and the historical site of the first Jewish temple, holy to both Jews and Muslims.

The high alert is also due to the “day of rage” announced by the Palestinian Hamas Islamist movement and other protests staged across Muslim countries against Israel’s actions at the site and in the West Bank territories.

“There are thousands of policemen deployed in Jerusalem since this morning in order to ensure the quiet and security,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told reporters on Friday while visiting the main friction areas in east Jerusalem.

Jews are allowed to visit but cannot pray in the Temple Mount, in understandings referred to as the “status quo”, which were incorporated into the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would work to keep the “status quo” intact, right wing Jewish activists have deplored the “status quo”, urging Israel to allow Jews to pray at the site, and made several visits to the site.

Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli security forces at the sacred site for three days over this week’s Jewish new year.

On Sunday, high-level clashes broke out between the two sides with some Palestinian protesters entrenching themselves in the Al Aqsa mosque.

Dozens of police officers and protesters were lightly injured after the three-day massive clashes, and more than 30 Palestinians were arrested.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank territories in the 1967 Mideast War, and annexed the Palestinian villages in east Jerusalem in 1981, in a move deplored by the international community. More than 300,000 Palestinians live in east Jerusalem.

Palestinians fear Israel’s takeover of the holy site in east Jerusalem, and view east Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, based on the two-state solution.

(IANS)