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Israel opens Al-Aqsa for Muslim prayers despite tensions

Israel has reopened the Al-Aqsa mosque compound for Muslim worshippers. But rising tensions between Palestinians and Israeli security forces have prompted Prime Minister Netanyahu to cancel a trip to Germany.

Israel lifted restrictions on prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque on Wednesday, police spokeswoman Luba Samri announced. Security officials had placed a ban on the compound, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, on Sunday during the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

Washington welcomed the reopening, with deputy spokesman Mark Toner calling it "a step in the right direction." Israeli officials also met with their Palestinian counterparts in the West Bank on Tuesday evening for discussions to restore peace in the area.

The tense situation at the holy site also prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel his trip to Germany. German government spokesman Georg Streiter said the meeting scheduled for Thursday would have involved several ministers from both nations and that Berlin "regrets this cancellation and hopes that these consultations can be held at a later date."

Israel Felsendom in Jerusalem

Jews refer to the Al-Aqsa compound as the Temple Mount

The Al-Aqsa compound, Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank have witnessed violent protests and killings in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian woman stabbed an Israeli man, who then shot and wounded her. Israeli police spokeswoman said the "female terrorist" had attacked the man from behind, wounding him seriously. Both people were taken to the hospital.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces razed down houses of two Palestinians, who had attacked Israelis last year. The demolition was followed by violent protests by Arab-Israelis in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv.

Palestinians fear that Israel is trying to change the rules of access to the mosque, which Israel annexed from Jordan in 1964. The Al-Aqsa compound is regarded as the Temple Mount by Jews, who are only allowed to visit, but not pray at the compound.

mg/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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