A day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said “firm commitments” had been made to resolve the escalating conflict in the West Bank, Israeli authorities announced Friday that an age bar on Palestinian worshippers to the Al-Aqsa and Temple Mount compound has been lifted, according to media reports. The restriction, which had been in place since mid-October, reportedly barred the entry of Palestinian men below the age of 50 years.
“There’s no age limit on the Temple Mount, we're hoping things will be calm and quiet today,” Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld reportedly said, referring to the site in East Jerusalem that is venerated by both Jews and Muslims. “Extra police units have been deployed in Jerusalem this morning to prevent any incidents in and around the Old City.”
The announcement comes a day after Kerry held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Amman, and reportedly discussed steps to “de-escalate the situation” in Jerusalem and to “restore confidence.” Kerry also held a separate meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to media reports.
Kerry had also added, at a press conference held after the meeting on Thursday, that the “status quo” would be maintained at the disputed site.
Currently, although Jews are allowed to enter the compound, they are not permitted to worship there. However, a recent spate of visits by several far-right Jewish activists and politicians had sparked fears among Palestinians that Netanyahu was attempting to change the longstanding arrangement and permit Jews to pray at the site.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to uphold the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and to implement these steps,” Kerry said, at the press conference.
The latest announcement by Israel might defuse simmering tensions in the Occupied West Bank, which has witnessed several violent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in recent months.