Israel boosts security in Jerusalem Old City amid tensions


Security has been heightened since the killing of two Israeli policemen last week

Israel has tightened security around Jerusalem’s Old City amid fears of violence over the installation of metal detectors at a sacred site.

Israel barred men under the age of 50 from the area after Palestinian leaders called for worshippers to flock there for Friday prayers.

There have been nightly clashes since the devices were installed last weekend at entrances to the holy compound.

It follows the killing nearby of two Israeli police by Israeli Arab gunmen.

Palestinian and Islamic leaders have fiercely objected to the installation of the metal detectors, saying it is a violation of the status quo.

Israel says it is a necessary security measure after the weapons used to kill the policemen were smuggled into the holy site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and Jews as the Temple Mount.

Enable it in your browser or download Flash Player here.Sorry, you need Flash to play this.Media captionThe Jerusalem holy site security row explained

The area, in East Jerusalem, has been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel has repeatedly pledged to maintain the status quo – a delicate set of arrangements in place at the site for the past 50 years. Any changes there are often regarded by Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a sought-after state, as a violation of these arrangements.

Only men over the age of 50 and women were allowed into the Old City on Friday morning – a measure which is sometimes taken to try to prevent rioting at the holy site.

Police say they fired tear gas to disperse rioters who threw stones and tried to break through a police barricade in the street outside.

Palestinian factions have called for a "day of rage", and Israel has placed extra battalions of troops on standby.

Thousands of police have been deployed around the compound, home of the al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock. Buses transporting Muslim worshippers were stopped from entering Jerusalem on Friday morning, while surrounding streets have been closed to traffic.

After last week’s attack, the holy site was closed for Muslim prayers for the first time in decades as police searched the area for weapons.

Friday prayers normally draw thousands of worshippers there.

Since the introduction of metal detectors, Palestinians have refused to enter the site, holding prayers outside.