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Israel lifts age bar on Jerusalem mosque prayers

JERUSALEM: Men of all ages will be allowed to attend the main weekly Muslim prayers Friday at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound for the first time in “months”, a police spokesman said.

“No age limit on the Temple Mount, we’re hoping things will be calm and quiet today,” spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told AFP.

He was using the Jewish term for the Old City holy site that has been the scene of repeated disturbances for months.

He added that “extra police units were deployed in Jerusalem this morning to prevent any incidents in and around the Old City.”

Rosenfeld linked the decision to lift age restrictions to talks in Jordan on Thursday after which US Secretary of State John Kerry said steps were agreed between King Abdullah II and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lower tensions at the mosque compound.

“Firm commitments” were made to maintain the status quo at the compound, holy to both Jews and Muslims, in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Kerry said at a press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

Israel and Jordan, which has custodial rights at the compound, also agreed to take steps to “de-escalate the situation” in Jerusalem and to “restore confidence”.

“We are not going to lay out each practical step. It is more important they be done in a quiet and effective way,” Kerry said.

“It is clear to me that they are serious about working on the effort to create de-escalation and to take steps to instil confidence that the status quo will be upheld.”

The Palestinians have been infuriated by a far-right Israeli campaign for Jewish prayer rights at Al-Aqsa.

Netanyahu has said repeatedly that his government has no plans to change the decades-old status quo at the compound which allows Jews to visit but not pray. – AFP

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