Israel lifts Muslim age limit at Jerusalem shrine

JERUSALEM (AP) — For the first time in weeks of escalating violence, Israel allowed Muslims of all ages to enter Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site to perform Friday prayers in an apparent bid to ease tensions.

Earlier Friday, a Palestinian stabbed a soldier in the West Bank and was shot by troops, Israel’s military said. The soldier and the Palestinian — a 16-year-old, according to Israeli media reports — were wounded and evacuated to hospitals.

It was the latest incident in a round of violence that began in mid-September.

Ten Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings. Forty-eight Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 27 said by Israel to be attackers and the rest in clashes.

Tension around the Jerusalem shrine, a 37-acre hilltop platform revered by both Muslims and Jews, has been one of the triggers of the current violence.

Widespread Palestinian perceptions that Israel is trying to expand its presence at the Muslim-run site have led to clashes there that quickly spread to other parts of Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli has repeatedly denied it is trying to change long-standing understandings under which Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray at the shrine. Israel has accused Palestinian political and religious leaders of lying and inciting to violence.

Palestinians say their fears have been fueled by a rise in visits to the shrine by Jewish activists demanding prayer rights, including senior members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.

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