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Israel Seals off West Bank


Only women and men over the age of 50 were allowed to enter al-Aqsa mosque on Friday. (Reuters)

has imposed a full closure of the occupied Palestinian territory of
West Bank, announcing that no one will be allowed in or out for 48

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, made the move amid
reports of possible protests by Palestinians around the al-Aqsa mosque
in Jerusalem after Friday prayers.

women and men over the age of 50 were allowed to enter the mosque, and
hundreds of young men prayed at the gates of the Old City after being
denied entry.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Jerusalem, said that there had been some skirmishes around the Old City.

heard from police that there was some Palestinians throwing rocks and
they [police] told us they tried to calm the situation by using the
least amount of force necessary," she said.

"It has certainly been a tense day ... Hundreds of police and border guards were deployed in and around East Jerusalem."

The al-Aqsa compound, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble
Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount, has been the site of a
number of violent incidents.

Clashes erupted last week after Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli
prime minister, announced plans to include two sites in the West Bank
on a list of Israeli heritage sites.

Hebron clashes

Besides Jerusalem, skirmishes also broke out after Friday prayers in
the West Bank city of Hebron, but no serious injuries were reported.

"After protests last Friday and last Sunday, Israeli officials fear there could be more disturbances," our correspondent said.

She said many Palestinians "want to make a point" about recent moves
by Israel to expand settlements in the occupied territories, including
East Jerusalem.

"They feel their presence in East Jerusalem is under attack, as is their access to religious sites," she said.

Last week, the interior ministry announced plans to build 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Jerusalem
housing committee is planning to build another 50,000 Jewish homes in
occupied East Jerusalem to join the hundreds of thousands already there
or in progress.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem after the 1967 Middle East war and
built settlements that are illegal under international law to house
more than 200,000 Israelis.

The occupation has never been recognised by the international community.

Palestinians denounce settlements in East Jerusalem, which they want to make the capital of their future state.

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