Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Sunday, 28 February 2010

Police enter Jerusalem holy site

Stonethrowers in the Old City
There were also clashes elsewhere in the Old City area of Jerusalem

Israeli police have clashed with Palestinian protesters at the Jerusalem compound housing one of Islam's holiest sites, the al-Aqsa mosque.

Police say they went into the compound to disperse some 20 masked protesters throwing stones at foreign tourists.

The Islamic body which oversees administration of the area disputes the police account of events.

This is the latest in a series of clashes amid high tensions over religious sites in the past week.

The Jerusalem compound also contains the Western Wall, one of Judaism's most sacred sites.

Clashes broke out in the West Bank town of Hebron on Friday over Israel's decision to list two disputed shrines as heritage sites.

Contested site

A Palestinian official said a group of youths had spent the night in the al-Aqsa mosque to prevent what they believed to be Jewish extremists from praying at the sensitive site.

Palestinians and Israelis were injured and several Palestinians were arrested in the brief confrontation on Sunday, police say.

An Israeli police spokesman said calm had been restored to the compound and visits resumed.

The spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said Muslim men under the age of 50 had been barred from the site, while older men, women of all ages and children had been permitted to enter.

Map of Israel showing Jerusalem and the West Bank

The Jerusalem complex, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, has long been contested.

Clashes erupted at the site last September after Muslims threw stones at people they believed to be Jewish extremists trying to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque.

A visit to the compound in 2000 by then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon, later prime minister, led to clashes that escalated into years of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The Temple Mount compound, in the old city in East Jerusalem, covers an area of 35 acres. East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel since it captured the area in the 1967 war.

The Dome of the Rock is holy to Muslims because they believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from the spot.

The Temple Mount is holy to Jews because it is where the First and Second Temples were built, with the Western Wall still remaining. The site is known in Jewish tradition as "abode of God's presence".

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