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Tensions Spike In Jerusalem's Old City Over Metal Detectors At Muslim Shrine

Protesters, worshippers and security forces are massing in Jerusalem's Old City, where security measures at a religious shrine are angering Muslims. Tensions are high at the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

There are reports of small skirmishes in Jerusalem, after Muslims gathered for Friday afternoon prayers outside Al-Aqsa mosque. Worshippers who refused to pass through the metal detectors chose instead to pray next to them.

From Jerusalem, NPR's Daniel Estrin reports:

"A few hundred Palestinians faced off against Israeli forces guarding a gate of Jerusalem's walled Old City. Police are preventing men under the age of 50 from entering. And police say they've blocked buses of Muslims coming to Jerusalem from around the country.

"Muslim leaders called for a mass gathering to protest Israel installing metal detectors at the holy site where Arab citizens of Israel carried out a deadly shooting last week. In an apparent compromise, police suggested they would no longer require all worshippers to pass through the metal detectors. But Palestinians say the metal detectors are an Israeli attempt for more control of the Muslim-administered site."

The site was the epicenter of last week's terrorist attack, in which three men between the ages of 19 and 29 attacked Israeli police officers and carried out a gun battle with security forces before being killed. After that violence, authorities took the rare step of closing the site for a short period. Soon afterward, the security detectors were installed.

"We will continue to pray outside the Al-Aqsa mosque as long as the metal detectors are at the gates," the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, said Friday, according to Ynet News.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.