Israel reopens al-Aqsa Mosque

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Israel has reopened al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City following two-day closure after three Palestinians and two Israeli police officers were killed in a gun battle in the mosque compound.

Crowds chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) as a number of initial visitors entered the compound on Sunday.

The compound was shut down on Friday after the three Arab citizens of Israel shot the Israeli officers dead in the Old City before fleeing to al-Aqsa compound where they were killed by Israeli police.

In statements in advance of his departure to Paris late on Saturday, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said he had ordered metal detectors installed at the gates as part of new security measures to be introduced at the holy site.

“We will also install security cameras on poles outside the Temple Mount but which give almost complete control over what goes on there. I decided that as of tomorrow, in the framework of our policy of maintaining the status-quo, we will gradually open the Temple Mount, but with increased security measures,” the statement quoted Netanyahu as saying.

Noon Islamic prayers were held outside the site due to the new security measures.

“We reject the changes imposed by the Israeli government,” Sheikh Omar Kiswani, al-Aqsa director, said.

“We will not enter through these metal detectors.”

The mosque compound is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif while Jews call it Temple Mount.

In 2015, Israeli soldiers stormed the mosque that resulted in days of violence and clashes. Palestinians fear an increased incursion of Israeli rightwing groups into the mosque comppound.

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The compound lies in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move that was never recognised by the international community.

Jews are allowed to visit, but are banned from praying there to avoid provoking tensions. They pray at the western wall of the compound, which is considered the holiest site for Jews.

SOURCE: News agencies

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