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Police reopen Temple Mount ahead of Friday prayers

Muslim worshipers will be granted access to al-Aqsa Mosque compound after site was closed Thursday to prevent escalating violence

A Palestinian woman shouts at Israeli policemen in the old city of Jerusalem on October 30, 2014 after Israeli authorities temporarily closed the al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site but also the most sacred place in Judaism. (photo credit: AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
A Palestinian woman shouts at Israeli policemen in the old city of Jerusalem on October 30, 2014 after Israeli authorities temporarily closed the al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site but also the most sacred place in Judaism. (photo credit: AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)

Police decided Thursday evening to reopen the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to Muslims hours after ordering its closure and following Arab and US calls for Muslim worshipers to be allowed in.

“It was decided to restore [the compound] to normal… effective immediately,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, adding that because of a fear of unrest at Friday midday prayers, entry for Muslim men would be restricted to those over 50.

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

Non-Muslims are not allowed access on Fridays to prevent violent altercations.

Samri said the decision was subject to security developments.

Israel had earlier said its closure of Islam’s third holiest site, which is also the most sacred site in Judaism, was temporary and aimed at calming tempers amid spiraling violence in Jerusalem, including the fatal shooting of a Palestinian man in a firefight with police early Thursday who is suspected by Israel in the attempted assassination of a far-right Jewish activist.

Palestinian president Mahmoud 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 mosque compound be reopened to Muslim worshipers, and called on all sides to exercise restraint.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also condemned the shooting of Rabbi Yehudah Glick, an advocate of greater Jewish control over the Temple Mount, who is an Israeli-American dual national.

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