(AFP) – Jun 10, 2010
JERUSALEM — Israeli police were on alert Friday against possible demonstrations by Arabs over last week's deadly assault on a Gaza aid ship and have banned access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound to men under age 40, a spokesman said.
"Our forces have been placed on alert," Micky Rosenfeld said. "Hundreds of police and border guards have been deployed for this in the Old City."
Only men over the age of 40 and women and children will be allowed to enter the mosque compound for Friday weekly prayers.
The mosque compound, located in the Old City, is the third most sacred site in Islam. It was there that Arab anger over a visit by then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon sparked a Palestinian uprising in 2000.
Clashes erupted across mostly Arab east Jerusalem in March over the reopening of a 17th century synagogue a few hundred metres (yards) from the mosque and rumours that Jewish extremists planned to destroy the compound.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it to its capital in a move not recognised by the international community. The Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state.
On May 31, Israeli naval commandos stormed a Turkish ship that was part of an aid flotilla seeking to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. Ensuing clashes left nine Turkish activists dead.
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