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Kerry urges Israeli PM to keep Al-Aqsa 'status quo'

US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep the "status quo" at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem.

In a phone call with Netanyahu on Friday, Kerry called for keeping the status quo at the holy site and avoiding taking provocative measures, according to Israel Radio.

The top American diplomat also apologised for Netanyahu for the quotes attributed to anonymous White House officials in a report by The Atlantic referring to the Israeli premier as "chickenshit".

"Such statements are disgraceful, unacceptable and damaging," Kerry said in a press conference.

Israel closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Thursday, shortly after the shooting of an extremist Jewish rabbi in Jerusalem.

Israeli authorities reopened Al-Aqsa on Friday following a day of violent clashes with Palestinian protesters, but barred male worshippers under 50 years old from entering the religious site.

On Friday, Kerry telephoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss developments in the Palestinian territories.

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognised by the international community.

In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the "Second Intifada," a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.

Asia & AmericasIsraelMiddle EastNewsPalestineUS
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