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Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK

World: Middle East

Jewish activists barred from al-Aqsa

The al-Aqsa compound: Islam's third holiest site

Israeli police have prevented Jewish activists from entering the al-Aqsa mosque complex on the day marking the destruction of ancient Jewish temples on the site.

No arrests were reported as police barred about 30 members of the Temple Mount Faithful from the compound, the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Jewish militants try every year to enter al-Aqsa for Tisha Be'Av, an annual day of fasting to mark the destruction of the first and second Jewish temples.

On Wednesday night, a group of Jewish radicals threw pamphlets into the mosque compound and scuffled with Palestinians.

Three Israeli militants, supporters of the outlawed anti-Arab movement Kach, were subsequently arrested.

Police have deployed extra forces around Jerusalem's Old City as Jews hold marches and other events to mark Tisha Be'Av.

Court order

Israel's high court issued an order on Wednesday that police should permit small groups of Jews to enter the al-Aqsa compound on condition they do not attempt to pray at the site - an act that would be viewed as provocative by Muslims.

Thousands of Jews gathered throughout the night at the Western Wall, the last vestige of the Second Temple, which adjoins the site.

Tisha Be'Av marks the anniversary of the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 AD and the First Temple by the Babylonians in the sixth century BC.

Jewish fundamentalists believe a third temple must be built on the same site to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, making the mosque compound, still called Temple Mount by Jews, a flashpoint for religious and political tension.

Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, as the capital of a future state.

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