Israel lifts restrictions at Jerusalem's Al-Asqa

Israeli move comes after Palestinian president instructed security forces, political factions to prevent any escalation of violence which raised fears of new intifada or uprising

Israel lifts restrictions at Jerusalem's Al-Asqa

World Bulletin / News Desk

Israel lifted restrictions on worship at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound Wednesday in an apparent bid, swiftly welcomed by Washington, to ease tensions after three weeks of violence.

The Israeli move came after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas instructed security forces and political factions to prevent any escalation of the violence which has raised fears of a new intifada or uprising.

The Al-Aqsa compound has been the focus of angry Israeli assaults which have raged in annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, and which on Tuesday spread to the heart of Israel with Arab Israeli demonstrators protesting in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv.

Palestinians fear that Israel's right-wing governing coalition is poised to change longstanding rules which allow Jews to visit, but not pray at, the mosque compound, which is holy to both faiths.

There have been repeated attacks on Palestinians in and around the compound in Jerusalem's Old City through a succession of Jewish religious holidays that have seen a rise in the numbers of Jewish visitors.

The disturbances prompted Israel to deny entry to Muslim men under 50 from Sunday.

But police announced late on Tuesday that the restriction would be lifted in time for Wednesday's Muslim prayers.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner welcomed the move as "a step in the right direction" to ease tensions.

Israeli and Palestinian security officials also met at an undisclosed location in the West Bank on Tuesday evening for talks that the Israeli media said were aimed at restoring calm.

The talks followed Abbas's call for restraint.

"We are telling our security forces, our political movements, that we do not want an escalation, but that we want to protect ourselves," the official Wafa news agency quoted the Palestinian leader as telling officials.

Abbas's intentions had been unclear before his latest comments, particularly after a speech he gave to the UN General Assembly last week in which he declared he was no longer bound by accords with Israel.

The Palestinian leader had accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of stoking the violence with a series of draconian measures imposed in response to the killings of four Israelis.

They included a temporary ban on Palestinians entering Jerusalem's Old City, except for residents, business owners and schoolchildren. That was lifted on Tuesday.

Netanyahu also ordered security forces to step up punitive measures against Palestinian militants and on Tuesday they demolished the homes of two Palestinians who carried out attacks last year.

Such demolitions are condemned by human rights groups as collective punishment targeting not only convicted militants but also their families.

- UN urges probe -

The spike in violence has brought international calls for calm, with concerns the unrest could spin out of control and escalate into a new intifada like those of the early 2000s and 1987-93.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon criticised the home demolitions and urged Israel to fully investigate deadly clashes in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

He said a "prompt and transparent" probe into the killing of a Bethlehem teenager by the Israeli army during rioting on Monday would serve to determine "whether the use of force was proportional".

Troops shot dead 13-year-old Abdel Rahman Abdullah on Monday -- the second killing of a Palestinian in 24 hours -- as dozens were wounded in clashes.

After Abdullah's funeral on Tuesday, about 100 masked youths stoned soldiers who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Palestinian medics said two protesters in the usually quiet oasis town of Jericho were moderately wounded by shots to the legs.

In Jaffa, Israeli Arabs marched in protest at Israeli actions at the Al-Aqsa compound.

"Protesters, some masked, threw stones at police and assaulted and injured two officers," Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Ekim 2015, 11:04