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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April, 2005, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Israeli police guard Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif, is holy to Muslims and Jews
Israeli police have previously deployed to stop Jewish attacks
Thousands of Israeli police have surrounded the Temple Mount in Jerusalem amid fears that Jewish protesters plan to storm the site.

The operation follows reports that extremists hope to thwart Israel's withdrawal from Gaza by inflaming tensions with Palestinians.

Palestinian militants say they will end a truce if Jewish protesters enter the al-Aqsa mosque built on Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount is known as the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims.

Last month, Israel's Channel Two TV station showed a video that it said showed plotters, including rabbis and far-right extremists, discussing ways to occupy the site, which is holy in both Judaism and Islam.

The meeting of representatives from 30 different groups took place at a secret location in Jerusalem's Old City, the TV station said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei appealed to Israel to stop any action against the compound, saying it would cause the region to "explode".

Large numbers of Israeli police were deployed around the Temple Mount compound in mid-February for fear of an attack by Jewish extremists.

Significance

Opponents of the Gaza withdrawal plan have been protesting in a number of ways, including blocking traffic on major roads causing massive jams.

Israel is due to withdraw all settlers and the troops that protect them from Gaza in July this year. Israel has occupied Gaza since 1967, and will retain control of the strip's external borders, airspace and coastline.

The Temple Mount compound, in the old city in East Jerusalem, covers an area of 35 acres.

The site is holy to Jews because it is the site of the First and Second Temple in ancient times. It is known in Jewish tradition as the "abode of God's presence".

It is also of deep religious, political and national significance to Palestinians and to Muslims around the world.


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