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Israeli police lift age restrictions for worshippers at Al-Aqsa on Friday

JERUSALEM: Israeli police said they have lifted age restrictions for the main weekly prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, for the first time in weeks.

The restrictions on male worshippers have been imposed on Fridays since mid-September when repeated clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police erupted at the flashpoint site.

“For the moment, no age limitations on worshippers’ entry,” a police spokeswoman said in a statement.

The restrictions had meant only men over the age of 40, 45, or 50, depending on the decision taken, were allowed to enter the mosque compound in east Jerusalem that is Islam’s third-holiest site.

The compound was seized by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, and later annexed in a move never internationally recognised, and is currently managed by an Islamic foundation under the auspices of Jordan.

However Israel controls access.

The compound is also the holiest site for Jews who call it the Temple Mount.

But under longstanding rules governing the site, Jews are allowed to visit but not pray.

Clashes erupted during a series of Jewish religious holidays in September as an increase in visits by Jews raised fears among Muslims that Israel was planning to change the rules.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly that there are no such plans, something he reiterated after talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Berlin on Thursday.

The talks were part of a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at defusing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians which have led to a flare-up of deadly violence this month.

The protests at Al-Aqsa triggered a wave of lone-wolf knife attacks, shootings and car-rammings against Israeli soldiers, police or civilians.

Since October 1, at least 49 Palestinians and one Israeli Arab 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 attackers.

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