Jerusalem: Israel on Thursday took several steps, including barring all non-Muslims from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque, to allow unrestricted Eid prayers at the sensitive site, amid mounting international pressure on Premier Benjamin Netanyahu to ease the restrictions on Muslim worshippers.
The site holy to both Jews and Muslims will remain close for Jewish visitors during the festival. The site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, has been a flashpoint for violence in Israel-Palestinian conflict in recent days.
Last week, on the eve of the Jewish new year, tensions boiled over when Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the mosque and threw rocks and firecrackers at police.
Local media reports here said that Jordan's King Abdullah has told visiting guests in recent days that he refuses to take phone calls from Netanyahu to prevent Israel from using them to give the impression that the two nations were coordinating their reactions on the ongoing violence on the hilltop complex.
London-based Rai al Youm newspaper in a report today quoted sources from Jordan's royal palace confirming that the king has refused to take calls from Netanyahu.
Abdullah told Israeli-Arab lawmakers in a meeting that Al-Aqsa Mosque was open for Muslims only and cannot be shared.
"I will say once and for all, there is no partnership, no division, Al-Aqsa is a Muslim place of worship," he was quoted as saying.
Last week, he also spoke with American Vice President Joe Biden urging the US to act against "the ongoing Israeli policies at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and end the aggression."
Meanwhile, Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Ya?lon ordered a series of measures to ease access to the holy site for Muslims to pray during Eid al-Adha festival?which begun today.
Israeli police today barred all non-Muslims from entering the third holiest site in Islam.
As part of the eased restrictions valid till tomorrow, family visits in Israel will be allowed to married Palestinian couples who are residents of the West Bank.
Male West Bank Palestinians that are 45 and older, and women who are 30 and older will be given entry to pray at the Temple Mount.
Family from abroad will be permitted to visit West Bank Palestinians, who will also be allowed to travel abroad from Ben-Gurion Airport. The hours of border crossings have also been extended for Palestinians during the holiday.
The Israeli move comes after PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday called upon Netanyahu to "stop the chaos" at Al-Aqsa.
Following a meeting in Paris with French President Francois Hollande, the Palestinian leader said the situation in Jerusalem was "a very dangerous one that is liable to lead to an eruption of an intifada, which we are not interested in.
He has also called on the international community to "defend the Christian and Muslim holy places" in the capital.