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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered police to prevent government ministers and Knesset members from entering al-Aqsa Mosque compound, according to Israeli media.

Clashes have rocked the Jerusalem site in recent weeks amid a surge in tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Haaretz newspaper quoted an official as saying that the prime minister gave his directive during a security consultation last week and has not yet formally informed the cabinet ministers of his directive.

Muslim Knesset members will still be allowed to access the mosque.

Some Jewish politicians have visited the site in recent weeks, including Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who has come out in support of the right of Jews to pray in the compound.

Jews and non-Muslims can visit the site but are banned from praying there.

The al-Aqsa compound is the third-holiest site in Islam. It is located in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967 - in a move never recognised by the international community - as part of its occupation of the West Bank.

US concern

The White House expressed deep concern on Wednesday about the escalating violence in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem and urged Israelis and Palestinians to restore calm.

Inside Story - Is Israel maintaining the status quo at al-Aqsa Mosque?

"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms violence against Israelis and Palestinian civilians," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a news briefing.

"We call upon all parties to take affirmative steps to restore calm and refrain from actions and rhetoric that would further inflame tensions in that region of the world."

Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces across the West Bank on Wednesday, including in Jericho, Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah, where students of Birzeit University had called for a "Day of Rage".

Several Palestinians were seriously wounded by Israeli fire, just hours after two stabbing incidents in East Jerusalem and the Israeli city of Kiryat Gan.

The Red Crescent and the Palestinian health ministry say more than 1,600 Palestinians have been injured since October 3 as Israeli forces have used live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets to push back protesters.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies