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For 2nd day, Israel shuts Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque

FOR 2ND DAY, ISRAEL SHUTS JERUSALEMS AL-AQSA MOSQUE

For the second day, the Israeli authorities closed Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Saturday following a shootout that left five people dead.

"The Israeli government continues to prohibit prayers and adhan (call for prayer) and ban preachers from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque," mosque preacher Sheikh Ekrima Sabri told Anadolu Agency.

"These measures are unprecedented and have never been taken since the [Israeli] occupation of Jerusalem in 1967," he said.

Three Palestinians and two Israeli policemen were killed in a shootout near the flashpoint holy site in east Jerusalem.

Israeli authorities closed down the Al-Aqsa compound following the attack and cancelled the weekly Friday prayers for the first time in nearly five decades.

Israeli police have beefed up security, deploying hundreds of troops and erecting roadblocks at the entrances of Jerusalem's Old City, barring non-residents from entering.

The Israeli government said the closure of the Al-Aqsa mosque will continue until Sunday, where an assessment session will be held before it is reopened gradually.

The Palestinian preacher described the Israeli measures in Jerusalem's Old City as a "collective punishment".

"We reject the current Israeli violations against the Al-Aqsa mosque and call for their immediate withdrawal," Sabri said.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming all of Jerusalem as the Jewish state's "eternal" capital -- a move never recognized by the international community.

Sacred to Muslims, Jews, and Christians, Jerusalem is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which for Muslims represents the world's third-holiest site.

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