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Page last updated at 09:46 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 10:46 UK

Anger at Jerusalem shrine clash

Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in Jerusalem Old City, Sunday
Clashes spread from the mosque compound into the narrow Old City streets

Palestinian leaders have blamed Israel for raising tension in Jerusalem after a day of clashes at the city's most sensitive religious site.

Police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse 150 Palestinian protesters who had thrown rocks at non-Muslims who entered the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

The site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is sacred to both religions.

Israeli police said the visitors were foreign tourists, but Palestinians said they were Jewish extremists.

"At a time when (the US administration) is trying to bridge the divide... Israel is deliberately escalating tensions in Jerusalem," said Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat.

"We've seen this before, and we know what the consequences are," he added.

In the past the al-Aqsa/Temple Mount compound has been a flashpoint for Israel-Palestinian violence, notably after the visit of then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon in 2000.

Protests were quelled by Sunday afternoon, with dozens of police patrolling the streets of the walled Old City and blocking some of its gates.

Different versions

There are conflicting accounts as to who was the initial target of Muslim anger.

AL-AQSA/TEMPLE MOUNT
SACRED TO MUSLIMS:
First direction of prayer for Muslims, site of Prophet Muhammad's ascent into, home to al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock

SACRED TO JEWS:
Site of first and second Temples and the rock on which Abraham offered his son as a sacrifice. As the visible remnant of the Temple, the Western Wall is the holiest site in Judaism

Palestinian sources said about 15 people from the Temple Mount Guardians group managed to enter the compound and performed acts of worship in contravention of agreements putting the compound under Muslim control.

At first, Israeli police confirmed this, but later issued a clarification saying the group was in fact made up of non-Jewish French tourists.

Police said Palestinian worshippers had started protesting at immodest clothing worn by the visitors.

Other accounts say the tourists were mistaken for members of a large group of religious and right-wing Jews which had gathered at one gate of the compound to press for entry.

Mr Erekat accused the Israeli authorities of escorting hardline Jewish settlers from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, "whose presence is deliberately designed to provoke a reaction", around the mosque.

At least 10 Palestinians were injured in the clashes and several Israeli police were lightly hurt.

The Arab League expressed "extreme anger... at the premeditated aggression" at the Israeli security forces for allowing "Zionist extremists" into al-Aqsa.

The incident happened hours before the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish religious calendar, and Israeli security officials were unavailable for further comment.



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