‘We are encouraging both sides to not take any actions that would potentially escalate tensions, spokeswoman says

The State Department on Thursday, urged Israelis and Palestinians to calm the growing tensions in Jerusalem following new Israeli restrictions on Palestinians at Al-Aqsa mosque.

"We are encouraging both sides to not take any actions that would potentially escalate tensions," agency spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

Israeli authorities closed the Al-Aqsa compound and canceled weekly Friday prayers for the first time in nearly five decades following a shootout that killed three Palestinians and two Israeli policemen near the holy site in East Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers wounded nine Palestinians and detained four others during protests against the new Israeli measures.

Protests began Sunday after the mosque's leadership urged worshippers to boycott new metal detectors installed at entrances to the mosque.

Israel has defended the controversial move, claiming they are no different from security measures at other holy sites around the world.

"We continue to speak with the governments in the region to try to encourage a peace process," Nauert added.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam after the cities of Mecca and Medina.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming all of Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s "eternal" capital -- a move never recognized by the international community.

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