'Israeli restrictions at Al-Aqsa unacceptable'
Turkish president calls Palestinian and Israeli leaders to express concern over tensions in Jerusalem
By Ilkay Guder
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday discussed growing tensions in Jerusalem with Palestinian and Israeli presidents, following the new Israeli restrictions on Palestinians' entry into Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Erdogan called President Mahmoud Abbas early Thursday morning, according to sources from the Turkish president’s office, and expressed his concerns to his Palestinian counterpart
"Any restriction on Muslims entering Al-Aqsa Mosque is unacceptable," Erdogan said. "The protection of the Islamic character and sanctity of Al-Quds [Jerusalem] and Al-Haram al-Sharif [Al-Aqsa Mosque complex] is important for the whole Muslim world."
Israeli authorities closed down the Al-Aqsa compound and cancelled the weekly Friday prayers for the first time in nearly five decades, following a shootout last week that left three Palestinians and two Israeli policemen dead near the flashpoint holy site in East Jerusalem.
Palestinian news agency WAFA said that during the phone call, Abbas asked Erdogan to request the U.S. to put pressure on Israel, so that it backs down from its latest restriction on Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Erdogan later called Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and expressed regret over the loss of life during the incident, according to presidential sources.
He told Rivlin that Muslims should be able to enter Al-Aqsa without any restrictions, within the framework of freedom of religion and worship.
Rivlin said the measures were put in place for security purposes and assured Erdogan that there would be no change in the status of Haram al-Sharif and that religious freedoms would not be restricted.
On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers wounded nine Palestinians and arrested four others during protests against the closure.
Protests began on Sunday after the mosque's leadership called on worshipers to boycott new metal detectors installed at the mosque's entrances.
Israel has defended the move, claiming they were no different from security measures at other holy sites around the world.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming all of Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s "eternal" capital -- a move never recognized by the international community.
Sacred to Muslims, Jews, and Christians, Jerusalem is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which for Muslims represents the world's third holiest site.
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