Palestinians return to Jerusalem holy site

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Palestinians were set to return to pray at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site on Thursday after Israeli authorities removed controversial new security measures, potentially ending a nearly two-week crisis that sparked deadly unrest.

Muslim authorities announced a boycott of the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, was to end on Thursday afternoon after Israel removed remaining new security measures.

The compound includes the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden-topped Dome of the Rock. Palestinians had boycotted it since the security measures were installed following a July 14 attack nearby that killed two policemen.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas joined calls for worshippers to return to the site.

“The prayers will happen, God willing, inside the Al-Aqsa mosque,” Abbas told a press conference.

Abbas announced a freeze on contacts with Israel last week over the dispute, including security coordination, and said on Thursday a meeting would be held on whether to lift it.

Midday prayers were again held outside the compound, with officials saying preparations had to be made for worshippers to return to it for afternoon prayers at around 4:30 pm (1330 GMT).

Before the midday prayer, there were celebrations with hundreds of people clapping and singing.

It became quiet later as the prayer time approached, with worshippers spreading out prayer mats on the ground.

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