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Sunday, 29 July, 2001, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Violence erupts at Jerusalem holy site
injured Israeli policeman on stretcher
Several policemen were hurt in the mosque compound
Israeli security forces have fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators at a holy site in Jerusalem's Old City.

At least 15 Israeli policemen and 20 Palestinians were injured.

Hundreds of Israeli police stormed the Aqsa mosque compound after Palestinians threw stones down at Jewish worshippers by the Western, or Wailing, Wall.

Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem
There have been frequent clashes at the disputed site

A large Palestinian crowd had gathered earlier to stop a messianic Jewish group from placing a symbolic cornerstone on the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif - a complex holy to Jews and Muslims.

In the event, Israeli security forces prevented the group from getting anywhere near the site.

Several women were injured after the stone-throwing began.

The BBC's Paul Wood says there were several loud explosions as police fired tear gas canisters to disperse the Palestinians.

The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, said the Israeli police actions were "serious and indicate the extent of (Israeli) bad intentions". He warned that "bad intentions will have serious consequences".

Sensitive site

The complex was the original home of Solomon's temple, the most sacred site for Jews, and the stone was to be laid as a symbolic first step towards rebuilding the temple.

Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif map

But the complex also houses the Dome of the Rock and Aqsa mosque, holy to Muslims.

It was Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to the complex last September which in part triggered the Palestinian uprising or intifada.

Mr Sharon's spokesman Raanan Gissin told the BBC that Arab members of the Israeli parliament and the Palestinian Authority had incited Sunday's violence.

They had been "urging people to come up to Temple Mount in order to stir (up) trouble where none existed," he said.

Ceremony

Arab leaders had warned that the Jewish group's move would be a provocation.

The Jewish group - from the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful - held a brief ceremony in a parking lot outside the Old City. The 4.5 tonne stone was then removed from the area.

map of Jerusalem Old City

Last week the Temple Mount Faithful petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court for permission to place the cornerstone in the Old City.

The Supreme Court blocked their request to place it on the actual site where Jews believe the Biblical Temple stood, but allowed them to put it in a parking lot near the Dung Gate - an entrance to the Old City.

Egypt had urged permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to intervene to stop the Jewish group's ceremony.

On Saturday evening, about 4,000 right-wing Jews marched around the walls of the Old City to begin commemorations of the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

Commemoration date

Sunday is the ninth day of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar, when religious Jews commemorate the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC and the Second Temple in 70 AD.

The Temple Mount Faithful say that "not immediately rebuilding the Temple" is "the biggest failure and sin of our time".

The Islamic authority that administers the site has not allowed non-Muslims to go there since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"Palestinian stones forced hundreds to flee the most holy site in their religion"
The BBC's James Reynolds in Jerusalem
"Every single thing that goes on there has a tremendous impact in this country"
Israeli spokesman Ra'anan Gissin
"It raises serious questions about the free access to all three religions"
Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi
"Israel has been deliberately attempting to change the character of Jerusalem"
See also:

19 Jul 01 | Middle East
Rabbis urge Temple Mount visit
27 Jun 01 | Middle East
Arabs want US to push Israel
12 Jun 01 | Middle East
Hardliners disapprove of ceasefire plan
30 Sep 00 | Middle East
Strike call after Jerusalem bloodshed
26 Jan 01 | Middle East
Ariel Sharon: Controversial hardliner
28 Sep 00 | Middle East
Holy Jerusalem: The key to peace
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