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Israel lifts restrictions on Al Aqsa

JERUSALEM, Oct 11 – Israeli police on Sunday lifted restrictions on access to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a flashpoint site holy to Muslims and Jews that was cause for clashes and tensions for more than a week.

Amid the tensions, Israel a week ago closed access to the site, known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount, to non-Muslim visitors and to Muslim males under the age of 50.

"Access to the Temple Mount has been re-opened normally on Sunday morning to Muslims without age restrictions as well as to visitors during regular hours," Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby told AFP.

Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the compound looking over Jerusalem’s Old City between 0530 GMT and 0830 GMT and between 1030 GMT and 1130 GMT, he said.

The latest tensions over the compound exploded into violence on September 27, when Palestinians hurled rocks at a group of visitors whom they suspected of being rightwing Jewish extremists.

Police, who responded with stun grenades, said the group was made up of French tourists.

The incident came in the midst of a month in which Jews mark three of their most important holidays and fueled suspicions among Palestinians that Jewish worshippers would try to pray at the revered site during this period.

The Jewish holiday period ended on Saturday.

The site of the Al-Aqsa compound is the holiest place in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam and any perceived change in the status quo there has often led to outbreaks of deadly violence.

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In September 2000, the second Palestinian uprising or intifada, erupted after Ariel Sharon, a rightwing politician who went on to become Israel’s prime minister, visited the site.

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