Arab riot on Temple Mount (file)
Arab riot on Temple Mount (file)Reuters

Israeli police folded to a chorus of international criticism on Thursday evening and decided to reopen the Temple Mount on Friday - for Muslims only, not for Jews.

"It was decided to restore (the compound) to normal," police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.

Police had ordered the temporary closure of the Temple Mount on Thursday so as to calm the tension following the assassination attempt on Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick. Despite access on Thursday being closed to both Jews and Muslims, Muslims reportedly were allowed on the Mount anyway before rioting and being dispersed.

Samri added that due to a fear of Arab riots on the Temple Mount, a reccuring phenomenon particularly heightened on the Friday Muslim "day of rest," only Muslim men over 50 would be allowed in along with all Muslim women.

The reopening would take effect "for dawn prayers, after midnight," according to the spokesperson.

The move comes after a ring of American and Arab criticism, which was joined Thursday by Sunni Islam's top institution, Al-Azhar.

Al-Azhar, which is located in Cairo, said Muslims and the world community must "immediately step in to stop this barbaric action that exacerbates religious conflict," in a statement quoted by Egypt's state news agency MENA, reports AFP.

The leading Sunni authority's statement comes on the heels of an outpouring of criticism, which US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki joined on Thursday by urging Israel to allow Muslim access to the mosque.

In that statement, she pressed Israel to return to the "status quo" of the site, by which the Jordanian Waqf (Islamic trust) has banned Jewish prayer in a violation of Israeli laws concerning religious freedom - Israeli police have followed the Waqf's directives and arrested Jews who pray at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Jordan has likewise slammed the closure of the mosque, accusing Israel of "state terrorism" and calling for international pressure against the Jewish state.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas went as far as calling the closure a "declaration of war," which his Fatah faction promptly followed by declaring Friday a "day of rage."

While Abbas called the Israeli closure a "declaration of war," just two weeks ago he called for Muslims to block Jews from "defiling" the Temple Mount by "all means necessary," in a call for terror that mirrors former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's calls for the 2000 Second Intifada.