The Latest: Palestinians cheer after Israel removes devices

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JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on the escalation in Israel and the Palestinian territories over a contested Jerusalem holy site (all times local):

3:45 a.m.

Israel has removed railings and an overhead metal bridge it had recently installed near a contested Jerusalem holy site, meeting a demand by Muslim protesters.

Palestine TV showed thousands of Palestinians celebrating in the streets early Thursday. They danced, chanted "God is Great" and set off fireworks.

Israel had installed metal detectors, the railings and more security cameras after a July 14 shooting attack from the shrine by Arab gunmen who killed two Israeli policemen.

The metal detectors were later removed, and Muslims staged mass prayer protests to press for the removal of the other devices as well.

The shrine is holy to Muslims and Jews.

Muslim leaders said they would decide later Thursday whether worshippers could now return to the shrine for prayers.


2: 10 a.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging all political, religious and community Ieaders to refrain from "provocative action and rhetoric" over the holy sites in Jerusalem and is calling on Israel "to demonstrate restraint."

Guterres' statement was issued Wednesday evening at U.N. headquarters in New York after rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas issued calls for mass protests by Muslims against Israel on Friday over security measures installed at a contested site.

The secretary-general said he is "particularly concerned about the potential risk of escalating violence."

Violence erupted last Friday over Israel's closure of the holy site and installation of metal detectors.

Guterres said "it is essential to fully respect the status quo at the holy sites."

He welcomed the dialogue between Israel and Jordan and encouraged continued discussions "on how to ensure security for both worshippers and visitors."


9:55 p.m.

Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have issued calls for mass protests by Muslims against Israel on Friday over security measures instated at a contested Jerusalem holy site.

The two factions issued separate statements on Wednesday. Fatah called for a "day of rage all over Palestine," while Gaza's Hamas rulers said the demonstrations should be in the West Bank.

The development raises concerns there could be another day of mass demonstrations and possibly clashes with Israeli security forces.

Last Friday, three Palestinians died in clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Jerusalem. A Palestinian man later stabbed three Israelis to death at their home in a settlement near Ramallah.

The violence followed Jerusalem's closure earlier this month of a holy shrine after three Israeli Arabs shot and killed two policemen at the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.


5:20 p.m.

Israel's Foreign Ministry has issued a scathing response to Turkey's criticism of its security measures at a contested Jerusalem holy site.

The statement is the latest in an intensifying war of words between the two former allies.

Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon says that "it's absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies Northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, lectures Israel, the only true democracy in the region."

He added that "the days of the Ottoman Empire have passed."

Wednesday's remarks came after Turkey accused Israel of making "arrogant" statements by calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's criticism of Israeli security measures at a Jerusalem shrine "delusional, baseless and distorted."

Israel and Turkey re-established diplomatic ties last year, six years after relations were put on hold over the deaths of 10 Turkish citizens in a 2010 Israeli raid on a ship attempting to break a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.


3:40 p.m.

Israel's police force is acknowledging it is preventing journalists from entering parts of the Old City of Jerusalem as part of its efforts to lower tensions around a contested holy site.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says Wednesday that "journalists are being prevented from coming in those specific areas where there have been disturbances and riots." He says it is a decision made by the Jerusalem police district.

Reporters have complained this week that they were being preventing from covering the unrest around the shrine while tourists were able to freely move about the city and film with their mobile phones.

The Foreign Press Association says journalists have been shoved and it has created "a dangerous situation" where accredited journalists were blocked from doing their jobs.


1:35 p.m.

The foreign ministries of Turkey and Israel are trading barbs over the crisis at a holy site in Jerusalem.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu on Wednesday accused Israel of making "arrogant" statements after the country's foreign ministry called remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a day earlier "delusional, baseless and distorted."

In an e-mailed statement, Muftuoglu "condemned" the Israeli ministry's comments and called on Israel to fulfil its responsibilities by "acting with good sense, restoring the status quo (at the holy site) and lifting all hurdles to the freedom of worship."

Mufuoglu said: "Trying to cover up the fact that East Jerusalem is under occupation will not serve peace and stability in the region or the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

On Tuesday, Erdogan had accused Israel of using security measures as a pretext to take over holy sites in Jerusalem from Muslims.

Palestinians claim Israel is trying to cement control over the site. Israel emphatically denies the claims insisting the security measures are in order to prevent further attacks.


10:15 a.m.

A senior Muslim official in Jerusalem says worshippers won't return to a contested shrine until Israel removes new railings and cameras it installed after a deadly attack there.

Ikrema Sabri says Wednesday that even after Israel removed metal detectors more steps were required. He says mass prayer protests would continue outside the site until the gates of the compound were opened and the metal railings and an iron bridge with cameras on it were removed.

Sabri, the head of the Supreme Islamic Committee, says a lawyer on behalf of the Muslim administration of the holy site will be in touch with Israeli police to demand the changes.

Israel installed new security measures after Arab gunmen shot and killed two police officers from within the site. Under international pressure, Israel removed the metal detectors.


9:30 a.m.

Muslim worshippers have once again held their morning prayers outside Jerusalem's most contested holy site despite Israel's removal of the metal detectors that sparked the protest.

Wednesday's prayers came a day after Israel seemingly capitulated to the demands of protesters. But Muslim religious leaders have called for prayers to continue outside until delicate arrangements at the site, holy to both Jews and Muslims, return to what they were before Israel installed new security measures. Those measures came after Arab gunmen shot and killed two police officers from within the site.

Israel says the measures are necessary to prevent further attacks while Palestinians claim Israel is trying to expand its control.

Israel decided to remove the metal detectors it installed. It says it plans to install new security cameras instead.

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