Israel Police Bar Men Under 50 From Holy Site as Jerusalem Prepares for Friday Clashes

Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock
Hamas has threatened a new intifada if the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty

Israeli police on Friday prepared for clashes with Palestinians ahead of Muslim prayers at a contested holy site in Jerusalem, imposing new restrictions at the site to prevent mass protests.

Tensions have continued to rise following a shooting attack by Palestinians that killed two policemen at the site known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, to Muslims. Israel replied with controversial security measures, including metal detectors, which angered Muslims and sparked mass protests.

Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld confirmed to Newsweek that men under the age of 50 will be barred from the complex on Friday following a security assessment and disturbances on Thursday. Women of all ages will be allowed to visit the site.

He said that overnight Palestinians barricaded themselves inside al-Aqsa Mosque and police had to forcibly remove them and make several arrests after they refused to leave. Extra security forces have been deployed to the city and the West Bank in preparation for an escalation of protest and violence.

The attack that sparked the two-week crisis took place on July 14. Three Palestinians from the northern Israeli Arab-majority city of Umm al-Fahm smuggled weapons into the compound, police say. They then launched an attack from within the complex, killing two Israeli officers, before other Israeli forces shot the attackers dead.

The complex, the third-holiest in Islam and the holiest in Judaism, sits in Jerusalem's Old City. Israel captured East Jerusalem and the complex in the 1967 Six-Day War. But a Jordanian-Palestinian waqf, or Islamic trust, presides over the religious site. Jews cannot pray on the site, so many pray at the Western Wall, believed to be a remaining wall of Herod's Temple.

Israel removed the detectors and security structures on Thursday from entrances to the site after a diplomatic spat with Jordan, the custodian of the holy site, caused by their installation and exacerbated by the deaths of two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy in the Jordanian capital, Amman, Sunday, after a local man stabbed an Israeli security guard with a screwdriver. Israel said the guard acted in self-defense, but the father of the alleged attacker has called for a trial.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the guard home, but Jordan's King Abdullah II said the Israeli leader's warm reception of the shooter was "provocative" and has since called on Israel to put the guard on trial. On Friday, Jordan's attorney general filed murder charges against the guard.

U.S. President Donald Trump dispatched his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt to the region to negotiate the Israeli embassy personnel's return home under diplomatic immunity.

Netanyahu thanked Trump for his decision, as well as thanking King Abdullah II "for our close cooperation." Israel and Jordan have been at peace since the signing of a 1994 treaty.