Muslim leaders of al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem have given their approval for Palestinians to re-enter the site after Israel removed new security measures.

Officials of the Islamic Waqf authority that administers the holy site said on Thursday that Muslims could once again pray inside the mosque, following almost two weeks of protests.

The first prayer is expected to take place at around 13:00 GMT.

“We will be able to offer prayers inside the compound,” said Abdel-Azeem Salhab, an elder Waqf official.

“The Israeli occupation forces have been trying for decades to violate al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Now, you are living in the new era of victory. We totally appreciate the masses who have been gathering,” he added.

Israel had erected railings, gates and scaffolding where cameras were mounted at al-Aqsa Mosque compound entrance, claiming the measures were necessary for security after an attack on July 14.

Palestinians protested against increased security, which they viewed as an encroachment of Israeli control over the holy site, and a form of collective punishment.

Instead of praying inside al-Aqsa, thousands worshipped in the streets.

They also demonstrated against the measures, often clashing with police. At least six Palestinians were killed in that violence, and hundreds were injured.

Palestinians celebrate as Israel removes security measures at al-Aqsa

By Tuesday, Israel had removed metal detectors from the entrance.

The measures, which also saw Palestinian men under the age of 50 banned from Friday prayers, were imposed after the alleged attack almost two weeks ago at the compound, carried out by Palestinian gunmen who killed two Israeli security guards.

As workmen removed the extra security installations on Thursday, Palestinians gathered to celebrate, with whistling and constant horns from cars.

“The message here is that the people have won,” said Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem. “It is a very special time for the Palestinians, who have never really experienced this kind of victory. They have achieved what they wanted.”

Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president, backed calls to return to al-Aqsa.

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

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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