Israel reopens Al Aqsa mosque

Israel reopens the flashpoint mosque compound and lifts a lockdown of the occupied West Bank.

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Israel reopened the flashpoint Al Aqsa mosque compound and lifted a days-old lockdown of the occupied West Bank today, a day after Jerusalem saw the heaviest Palestinian rioting in years. The Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said his forces remained on high alert for any unrest but the mosque compound ? the holiest site for Jews and the third holiest for Muslims ? had been reopened. "Access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is now free for both Muslim worshippers and tourists," he said, using the Jewish name for the site, which has been closed to Muslim men under the age of 50 and all non-Muslims.

Mr Rosenfield also said some 3,000 police were keeping up the state of alert in Jerusalem, especially the eastern sector. The Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak meanwhile ordered the lockdown of the West Bank to be lifted overnight, an army spokesman said. Israel had on Saturday extended the lockdown and restricted access to the holy site as tensions soared in Jerusalem over the reopening of a rebuilt 17th century synagogue in the Old City, a few hundred metres from the compound.

Israel sealed off the West Bank on Friday after the announcement that it planned to build new homes for Jewish settlers in annexed Arab east Jerusalem sparked a row with Washington and fuelled anger in the Palestinian territories. * AFP