Israel bans men under 50 from Jerusalem holy site
JERUSALEM — Israeli police and protesters have clashed in Jerusalem after authorities barred men under the age of 50 from entering one of the city's holy sites.
Police said the measure was put in place for security reasons after Palestinians were angered by the introduction of metal detectors at the shrine, with some calling for a "day of rage."
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The devices were installed after two Israeli policemen were shot dead at the site last week which is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.
Photos from Friday morning showed Muslim worshipers praying in front of police at the entrance to the complex.
NBC News later witnessed Israeli border police throw stun grenades towards Palestinians who had tried to push towards a police roadblock.
Video footage from the Associated Press, meanwhile, showed Israeli police dispersing protesters in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood in the east of the city with one officer kicking a man as he prayed.
The Twitter account of the Israeli police said stones had been thrown at officers.
Police spokesperson, Micky Rosenfeld, had earlier stated that 3,000 officers were on duty in different areas of Jerusalem's Old City to prevent potential unrest.
Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barakat, said Friday that decision to keep metal detectors in place was "courageous" even if it leads to "security challenges."
"This is not a political issue, but a professional security issue," Barakat added.
Conflicts over the holy site, home to the Al Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock which are revered by Muslims, have repeatedly triggered Israeli-Palestinian confrontations over the years.
The complex is managed by Jordan and is adjacent to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray.
In recent days, Palestinians have protested by praying in the street at the entrance to the site while some have clashed with police.
Muslim clerics urged worshippers to skip prayers in neighborhood mosques on Friday and converge on the shrine in an attempt to draw larger crowds.
Former grand mufti of Jerusalem Ekremeh Sabri told NBC News by phone that the protesters were refusing to enter "into Al Aqsa mosque through the electronic gates.
"I am calling all Muslims to come to the Old City and pray out side. Al Aqsa mosque is ours and just for us," he added.
One Palestinian man told NBC News that he had passed through security but had been prevented from praying next to the Al Aqsa mosque even though he is over 50-years-old.
Ahmad Din, 65, said that he had managed to enter the Old City through the first checkpoint but was unable to reach the mosque itself.
"They don't want us to pray not for security reasons it's political reason," Din said.
The U.S. State Department earlier called for the status quo to be maintained in the management of the site.
Police in Jerusalem said Friday that it had information of "extremist elements" that wanted to "violate the law" and was stepping up security around the city.
Friday is the highlight of the Muslim religious week when tens of thousands typically converge on the holy site for prayers.