JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel deployed police in force in Jerusalem Friday for weekly Muslim prayers and restricted access to a flashpoint mosque, after a deadly attack by a Palestinian sent tensions soaring.
Clashes broke out for a second night after the Palestinian ploughed his car into a crowd of pedestrians on Wednesday, killing a baby and injuring six other people before he was shot dead by police.
The security presence was boosted across east Jerusalem and its Old City after the confrontations between security forces and stonethrowing Palestinians, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
Palestinian men under the age of 40 would not be allowed into Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound for Friday prayers because of fears of further unrest, she said.
The compound in east Jerusalem is the scene of frequent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police.
The plaza houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and is revered by Jews as the location of the biblical Jewish temples, considered Judaism’s holiest place.
Two Palestinians were arrested during overnight clashes in the Old City in which stones, bottles and flares were thrown or fired at police, who used unspecified “riot dispersal” weapons, Samri said.
Violence pitting Palestinians against police has shaken annexed east Jerusalem on an almost daily basis since the murder of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists in July.
Clashes intensified during a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Police branded Wednesday’s incident – in which 21-year-old Abdelrahman Shaludi from Silwan in east Jerusalem drove at high speed into a crowd of Israelis – a “terror attack”.
Silwan – a densely populated Arab neighbourhood on a steep hillside just south of the Old City – has been the focus of Palestinian anger over Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned any further attacks would be met with “the harshest response”. Washington confirmed that the baby girl who was killed was a US citizen.