Israel began removing metal detectors from entrances to a major Jerusalem shrine early Tuesday morning to defuse a crisis over the site that angered the Muslim world and triggered some of the worst Israeli-Palestinian clashes in years.
Authorities in Jerusalem were on high alert as Israel banned men under the age of 50 from a contested shrine that usually draws tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers for Friday prayers.
Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the ban was introduced after some Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque at the holy site — which is known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews — overnight so they could join protests later. Rosenfeld said the would-be protesters were removed.
Clashes erupted Thursday between police and Muslim worshipers shortly after the site in the Old City reopened following an 11-day prayer boycott over metal detectors and other security measures Israel installed at the site, which is administered by Jordan.
Israel placed the metal detectors at the entry gates to the Esplanade of the Mosques last week after Arab-Israeli gunmen killed two Israeli police guards near the shrine on July 14. The detectors sparked mass prayer protests by Muslims outside the Old City and protests by Palestinians elsewhere.
Israeli police and Palestinian protesters clashed a week ago outside the Old City as young men threw rocks and improvised Molotov cocktails, while officers responded with water cannons and stun grenades. Thousands of Muslims prayed just outside the security zone. Muslim men under 50 were also barred from entering the Old City that day.
The detectors were removed earlier this week and Israel instead installed security cameras and barricades….