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Temple Mount Quieter For Muslim Prayers After Israel Backs Down On Security

The main prayer session at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque ended more quietly on Friday than expected with Israel setting an age limit on who could attend after two weeks of violent protests over tougher Israeli security measures.

Extra police stood guard throughout the walled Old City, some wearing riot gear, some on horseback, in anticipation of mass protests. But aside from a few hotspots where Palestinian protestors briefly clashed with Israeli officers, serious violence did not recur.

Throughout Friday Israel limited entry to the mosque compound, a raised marble-and-stone plaza referred to by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount, to men over the age of 50. Women of all ages were allowed in.

Under immense diplomatic pressure Israel removed the metal detectors on Thursday, a move welcomed by the Arab world, but disturbances quickly resumed when thousands of Muslim worshippers surged back into the mosque.

A few thousand people made their way to Al-Aqsa for Friday prayers, police said, while a younger crowd remained outside and worshipped in narrow side streets. When the prayer session ended those congregated left the area peacefully, for the most part.

Television footage showed some brief confrontations involving a group of Palestinians, a number of them throwing bottles, and police dispersing them with stun grenades.

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