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Israel to reopen Al-Aqsa mosque compound: police

JERUSALEM: Israel decided late Thursday to reopen Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound to Muslims from Friday, hours after ordering its closure and following Arab and US calls.

“It was decided to restore (the compound) to normal,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP, adding that because of a fear of unrest at Friday midday prayers, entry for Muslim men would be restricted to those over 50.

She corrected an earlier statement saying the site would reopen immediately, saying instead that it would take effect “for dawn prayers, after midnight”.

There would be no restrictions on Muslim women, she said.

Non-Muslims are routinely not allowed access on Fridays.

Samri also said the decision remained subject to security developments.

Israel had earlier said its closure of Islam’s third holiest site, which is also sacred to Jews, was temporary and aimed at calming tempers after police shot dead a Palestinian accused of trying to kill a far-right Jewish activist.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the unprecedented closure was tantamount to a “declaration of war” and Sunni Islam’s top institution, Al-Azhar in Cairo, called it “barbaric”.

The United States urged that the compound be reopened to Muslim worshippers, and called on all sides to exercise restraint amid spiralling tensions in Jerusalem.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also condemned the shooting of hardline rabbi Yehuda Glick, an Israeli-US dual national. -AFP

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