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Israel lifts closure of West Bank

JERUSALEM - Israel lifted its tight restrictions on Palestinian access to Jerusalem's holiest shrine Wednesday and called off an extended West Bank closure after days of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

Despite moving to end the lockdown, Israel still kept thousands of police officers on alert as an uneasy calm settled over the holy city.

The recent violence has taken place against a backdrop of deep Palestinian frustration over a yearlong standstill in peace talks and dovetailed with the worst U.S.-Israeli diplomatic feud in decades.

On Tuesday, the United States and Israel signaled they were trying to move beyond the crisis that erupted when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 apartments in disputed east Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden's visit last week. Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone Tuesday night, Israeli officials said.

While there were no reports of new clashes in Jerusalem, sporadic violence broke out yesterday in the West Bank. The most serious incident occurred in the northern city of Nablus, where dozens of Palestinian youths hurled rocks at Israeli security forces, some using slingshots and even a shovel to increase their range.

Israeli troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Medics said two Palestinians were wounded.

The recent protests have been fueled by plans for more Jewish housing in east Jerusalem. Israel also rescinded its closure of the West Bank that had prevented virtually all Palestinians from crossing into Israel. Thousands of Palestinians enter Israel daily for work, medical care and other services.

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