Israel has removed more security installations from the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Occupied East Jerusalem after protests and deadly unrest in recent days, prompting Palestinian celebrations early on Thursday.
A tense standoff has been underway between Israel and Muslim worshippers at the holy site despite the removal of metal detectors on Tuesday, with concerns of major unrest later this week if no resolution is found.
Newly installed railings and scaffolding where cameras were previously mounted have now also been removed from at least one main entrance to the compound, referred to as Haram al Sharif by Muslims and Temple Mount by Jews.
Palestinians began to gather at the entrance to celebrate in the early hours of Thursday, with whistling and constant honking of horns from cars.
Young men set off firecrackers as Israeli forces watched closely.
"For 12 days no one has slept, no one has done anything except the Al Aqsa Mosque," Firas Abasi, a Palestinian man in the crowd said, adding that he felt like crying over the "victory."
Israel installed the new security measures after a shootout on July 14 within the compound in which three Arab Israelis and two Israeli police officers were killed.
Muslims have refused to enter the site and have prayed in the streets outside for more than a week after Israel installed the new security measures there.
Palestinians view the move as Israel asserting further control over the site.
Protests and deadly unrest have erupted in the days since the measures were installed, with clashes breaking out around the compound in Jerusalem's Old City and in the occupied West Bank, leaving five Palestinians dead.
A Palestinian also broke into a home in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank last week and stabbed four Israelis, killing three.
Netanyahu threatens to shut Al Jazeera Jerusalem office
There have been concerns that Friday's main weekly Muslim prayers, which typically draw thousands to Al Aqsa, would lead to serious clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces.
Following intensive international diplomacy and warnings of the potential of wider unrest, Israel removed the metal detectors early on Tuesday.
Cameras installed after the attack on the police were also removed.
But Israeli officials said they were to be replaced with "advanced technologies," widely believed to be smart cameras with facial recognition technology.
The remaining installations and suspicions over what new measures Israel is planning led Palestinian and Muslim leaders to continue to call for a boycott of the site, and worshippers have so far heeded their call.
Separately late Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wanted to expel Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera from Israel because it "continues to incite violence around the Temple Mount."
Al Jazeera had not immediately commented.
Fears over Friday prayers protest
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who announced a freeze on contacts with Israel last week over the dispute, said on Tuesday the suspension would continue until the site was returned to the way it was before the crisis began.
Israel's decision to remove the metal detectors came after Netanyahu held talks with Jordanian King Abdullah II, who had demanded their removal.
In a telephone call on Wednesday, Abdullah and Abbas "stressed the importance of continuing coordination to bring the situation back to what it was before the outbreak of the crisis and ensure the historical and legal status of the Holy Mosque is respected," Jordan's Petra news agency reported.
A top aide to US President Donald Trump earlier this week held talks in Jerusalem on the crisis.
The clock has been ticking, with last week's Friday prayers having brought the situation to a boil.
Concerned with the potential for unrest, Israel barred men under 50 from entering Jerusalem's Old City for prayers last Friday.
Protests and clashes erupted later in the day. The deadly stabbings of three Israelis came the same day.
UN calls on Israel to show restraint
And fearing a repeat of last Friday's unrest, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he is concerned about the risk of violence escalating.
"I am particularly concerned about the potential risk of escalating violence, urge all political, religious and community leaders to refrain from provocative action and rhetoric and call on Israel to demonstrate restraint," Guterres said in a statement.