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Thousands of Muslims flock to Al-Aqsa for holding prayers there

THOUSANDS OF MUSLIMS FLOCK TO AL-AQSA FOR HOLDING PRAYERS THERE

Thousands of Muslims flocked to Jerusalem holy site for first prayers there after Israel removed security measures.

Palestinians ended a boycott and entered a sensitive Jerusalem holy site for the first time in two weeks Thursday after Israel removed controversial security measures there, potentially ending a crisis that sparked deadly unrest.

Palestinian worshippers streamed into the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, for afternoon prayers. The site includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 56 people wounded both inside the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and in the immediate area.


* Israeli security forces stand before Palestinians by the Dome of the Rock, in the Haram al-Sharif compound in the old city of Jerusalem on July 27 (AFP)

Outside, clashes in one area erupted when a group of policemen walked in the middle of a crowd. Palestinians threw plastic bottles and Israeli forces fired stun grenades.

Israeli police said stones were thrown at officers inside the compound.

"Upon the entry of worshippers into the Temple Mount compound, some began throwing stones at officers, during which some stones fell into the Western Wall plaza," Israeli police said in a statement, referring to the Jewish holy site below the compound.

"A police force at the site pushed back those disrupting the orders using riot dispersal means. An officer was hit by a stone on his head. He was treated at the site."


* Palestinian paramedics carry an injured woman on a stretcher past the Dome of the Rock, after clashes broke out inside the Al-Aqsa mosques compound in Jerusalem's Old City on July 27, 2017. (AFP)

Thousands of worshippers had earlier streamed into the compound for afternoon prayers for the first time in two weeks, ending a boycott after Israel removed controversial new security measures, installed after a July 14 attack killed two policemen.

The site includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Some cried as they entered while others shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest). Some brought their children in what was initially a celebratory atmosphere.


* Palestinians are seen inside the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City Thursday, July 27, 2017. Thousands of Muslims flocked to a major Jerusalem shrine Thursday for the first organized prayers at the site in nearly two weeks, following Israel's removal of security devices installed after a deadly attack. (AFP)

Muslims had in previous days refused to enter the compound and prayed in the streets outside after Israel installed the new security measures.

Palestinians viewed the move as Israel asserting further control over the site.

Israeli authorities said the measures, including metal detectors, were needed because the July 14 attackers smuggled guns into the compound and emerged from it to attack the officers.


* Palestinians react as they enter the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount (Reuters)

WARNINGS OVER FRIDAY PRAYERS -
Deadly unrest erupted in the days after the new measures were introduced, with clashes breaking out around the compound and in the occupied West Bank, leaving five Palestinians dead.

A Palestinian also broke into a home in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank last week and stabbed four Israelis, killing three of them.

There had been concerns that Friday's main weekly Muslim prayers -- which typically draw thousands to Al-Aqsa -- would lead to serious clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces if a resolution was not found.


* Israeli border police officers stand next to the Dome of the Rock mosque at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City Thursday, July 27, 2017. (AP)

After intensive international diplomacy, Israel removed the metal detectors on Tuesday.

Newly installed railings and scaffolding where cameras were previously mounted were also removed early on Thursday.

Police said on Thursday morning that all new security measures had been taken away.

The removal was seen as a defeat for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had ordered the new security measures and was forced to backtrack after warnings the unrest could spiral out of control.


* Palestinians react as a stun grenade explodes in a street at Jerusalem's Old city outside the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary (Reuters)

It represented a rare victory for Palestinians, who remained united in their boycott.

In the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, crowds of Palestinians gathered at the entrance of the site to celebrate, with whistling and constant horns from cars.

Young men set off firecrackers as Israeli forces watched closely.

Firas Abasi said he felt like crying over the "victory".

"For 12 days no one has slept, no one has done anything except the Al-Aqsa mosque," he said.


* Palestinian Muslims raise their arms and shout slogans before Israeli security forces in the Haram al-Sharif compound, in the complex in the old city of Jerusalem on July 27, 2017 (AFP)

OLD CITY GATES CLOSED
Israeli police also closed Jerusalem's Old City gates and prevented Palestinians from entering, Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, told reporters.

"The police deployed dozens of Israeli officers at the gates, closed down the holy compound, and prevented Palestinians from praying at the mosque," he added.

Meanwhile, thousands joined a congregational prayer led by the mosque's clergy, who had been carried in on the shoulders of the celebrating crowds.


* A Palestinian Muslim performs sujud, a prayer bow in gratitude to God, near the Dome of the Rock in the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, in the old city of Jerusalem on July 27, 2017. (AFP)

The return followed Israel agreeing to remove controversial metal detectors, installed after a deadly July 14 shootout at the holy site. Palestinians refused to accept the new security measures, calling them part of Israeli efforts to control Al-Aqsa.

The city of Jerusalem is sacred to members of all three Abrahamic faiths -- Muslims, Jews and Christians -- and the Al-Aqsa Mosque represents the Islamic world's third-holiest site.


* Palestinian Muslims bow in prayer inside the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, in the old city of Jerusalem on July 27, 2017 (AFP)

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