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Hundreds pray in Jerusalem streets amid new Al-Aqsa restrictions

May 30, 2014 4:37 A.M. (Updated: June 3, 2014 3:09 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of Palestinian Muslim worshipers were forced to pray in the streets of Jerusalem's Old City on Friday after Israeli authorities imposed strict regulations on those wishing to enter the Al-Aqsa mosque compound for noon prayers.

Eyewitnesses said that scuffles broke out between worshipers and Israeli police guarding checkpoints in East Jerusalem as they pushed crowds trying to enter the mosque back with batons, leading to cruises but no major injuries.

Israeli police on Friday imposed strict regulations on the entrance of Palestinians into parts of East Jerusalem since the early morning on Friday in a bid to enforce the new rules, which prevent any Palestinian man under the age of 45 from entering the compound.

Additionally, the rules only allow Palestinians with blue identity card -- either those who are Israeli citizens of East Jerusalem residents -- from entering, meaning even Palestinians over the age of 45 who are from the West Bank or elsewhere are unable to enter.

Israeli checkpoints were erected throughout the streets and alleyways around the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, and many others were blocked off with iron barriers and sandbags blocking the movement of locals.

Police were concentrated in the areas of Wadi al-Joz, al-Sawana, Salah al-Din, Bab al-Sahera (Herod's Gate), Musrara, and Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem.

Earlier in the morning dozens of East Jerusalem Palestinians and those with Israeli citizenship, along with a number of Turkish pilgrims, had also been forced to pray dawn prayers at the gates of the mosque compound after they were prevented from entering.

Clashes took place with Israeli police forces at that time around Bab al-Sahera (Herod's Gate) and Bab al-Hutta (Gate of Remission), and sound bombs were thrown toward worshipers.

Israeli authorities regularly impose restrictions on the entrance of Palestinian Muslim worshipers to the Al-Aqsa compound, which is located in the heart of occupied East Jerusalem.

Similar restrictions imposed in March led to major protests across the city, as Palestinians charged that the exclusion of worshipers without Israeli ID cards as well as those under a certain age is part of a larger strategy to "Judaize" Jerusalem and deny the Palestinian right to live and pray in the holy city.

Israel refers to Jerusalem as its "united" capital and annexed the city in 1981 in a move that was never recognized by the international community.

Palestinians say that East Jerusalem -- which Israeli forces captured in 1967, and have occupied since -- will be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

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