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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Men under 50 banned from Al Aqsa prayers

Under immense diplomatic pressure Israel removed the metal detectors on Thursday, but hours later the jubilation turned to anger as worshippers faced ­assault by rubber bullets

Israel sent extra police into Jerusalem on Friday and said men under the age of 50 would be banned from the Old City’s Al Aqsa mosque for the day in anticipation of more mass protests.

Tensions have been high at the compound for two weeks, often erupting into deadly clashes, prompting Israel to install metal detectors at the entrance to the site and a subsequent Muslim boycott.

Under immense diplomatic pressure Israel removed the metal detectors on Thursday, a move welcomed by the Arab world. Hours later the jubilation turned to anger as worshippers faced ­assault by rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades within the boundaries of what was supposed to be their sanctuary.

Violence broke out when Israeli soldiers forced their way into the courtyard of the mosque and climbed up the building to remove a Palestinian flag.

The Israeli troops fired stun grenades and rubber bullets, wounding 56 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Red Cross.

“Security assessments were made and there are indications that disturbances and demonstrations will take place today,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

“Extra police and border police are in and around the Old City and will respond to any disturbances.”

He said women of all ages will be allowed into the site, referred to by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and the Temple Mount by Jews.

Israel said the security measures were necessary to prevent further attacks, but to Palestinians they were a step towards Israel taking control of Al Aqsa.