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Israeli police on high alert as tension escalates over prisoners’ death

Published: Updated:

Israel’s police was put on high alert and reinforcements were deployed in Jerusalem Friday amid fears that the violent protests triggered by the death of two prisoners in Israeli jails would spread to the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound after weekly Muslim prayers.

“There is heightened security in and around the Old City. Extra police officers from different areas have been brought in to prevent any incidents from occurring today,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

Access by Palestinian men to the compound, which houses the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques, had been limited to those over the age of 50 and with Israeli-issued Jerusalem residency cards. There were no restrictions on women.

“We received indications that there would be incidents on the Temple Mount immediately after prayers,” Rosenfeld added, using the Jewish name for the compound.

The violence that followed the prisoners’ death, four Palestinian youths threw firebombs at an Israeli checkpoint near Tulkarm in the northern West Bank on Wednesday, the army said.

Soldiers returned fire and killed two teenagers from the nearby town of Anabta - Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji Belbisi, 18.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel's use of lethal force showed that it wanted to “provoke chaos” in the Palestinian Territories and avoid any moves toward a peace deal.

The wave of violence erupted two weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama paid his first official visit to the region, urging the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume long-stalled peace talks but offering no initiative to break the deadlock.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to travel to Jerusalem again next week to review the stalemate.