Israeli police on high alert at shrine site

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police were on high alert today ahead of Muslim prayers at a major Jerusalem shrine at the center of recent tensions.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said men under 50 would be barred from the site Friday following security assessments indicting Palestinians plan protests there. There are no restrictions on women.

Rosenfeld said some Palestinians barricaded themselves inside Al-Aqsa Mosque overnight in order to join protests later. Police removed them after they refused to leave, he said.

Friday prayers are the highlight of the Muslim religious week. Thousands of Muslims from around Israel and Palestinian areas typically worship at the holy compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Tensions have been running high at the site Arab gunmen killed two police officers on July 14, prompting Israel to install metal detectors and other security devices.

The move outraged Muslims who claimed Israel was trying to expand its control over the site. Israel emphatically denied the allegations insisting the security measures were needed to prevent more attacks.