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The BBC's Hilary Andersson, in Jerusalem
"The Palestinians say this did not have to happen"
 real 56k

Nawaf Massalha, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister
"It is provocation"
 real 56k

Hanan Aswari, Palestinian Legislative Council
"An act deliberately designed to create a situation of violence"
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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Shots fired at Jerusalem holy site
Palestinians on Haram al-Sharif with Israeli border police in background
Palestinians carry a wounded comrade from the clashes
Clashes have broken out between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem's holiest site, the compound around Al-Aqsa mosque.

In the worst violence there for several years, Israeli police fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at Palestinians protesting against what they saw as a provocative tour by the hardline Israeli opposition leader, Ariel Sharon.

What provocation is there when Jews come to visit the place with a message of peace?

Ariel Sharon
The compound - known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Haram al-Sharif to Muslims - lies on territory captured by Israeli in the 1967 war and is at the centre of the fierce dispute over the sovereignty of Jerusalem.

Police said 25 of their men were hurt by missiles thrown by Palestinians, but only one was taken to hospital. Israel Radio reported at least three Palestinians were wounded by rubber bullets.

Temple Mount Haram map
Four others, including two senior Palestinian officials, were beaten with clubs by the security forces.

In a separate incident which will increase tension, an Israeli soldier has died from injuries suffered in a bomb attack on Wednesday aimed at Jewish settlers and their military escort in the Gaza Strip.

'Peaceful' visit

Mr Sharon toured the mosque compound with his Likud party parliamentary faction early on Thursday under a heavy guard.

Israeli forces with Dome of the Rock in the background
Israeli troops sealed off the historic compound
BBC correspondent Hilary Andersson in Jerusalem said the visit was clearly intended to underline the Jewish claim to the city and its holy sites.

In protest, hundreds of Palestinians shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) and "Murderer, get out" as they tried to break through a police cordon.

As he left the compound, Mr Sharon denied the visit was provocation, insisting he had come with a "message of peace".

"I came here to the holiest place of the Jewish people in order to see what happens here and really to help the feeling that we are now ready to move forward," he said.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat described his visit as a "dangerous step".

Hotly disputed

Israeli-Palestinian negotations are stalled over the Jerusalem issue.

Ariel Sharon outside mosque compound
Sharon's visit came during a tense time in the city
Mr Sharon's party opposes an expressed willingness by Prime Minister Ehud Barak to cede parts of east Jerusalem to the Palestinians as part of a possible peace agreement.

In a newspaper interview published on Thursday, Mr Barak outlined his vision of two Jerusalems.

Al-Quds, the Arabic name for the city, would belong to the Palestinians, he said, while Jerusalem would be Israel's internationally-recognised capital.

The proposal, which still does not solve the problem of the holy sites, would involve redefining the city's borders.

Not only is Al-Aqsa the Muslim world's third holiest shrine, but the compound is also most holiest site for Jews, who believe it stands on the site of Solomon's temple.

Correspondents describe the compound - which is administered by Islamic authorities - as the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It has been the scene of deadly clashes on several occasions since Israel captured the site in 1967.

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See also:

28 Sep 00 | Middle East
Barak agrees to twin Jerusalem capitals
28 Sep 00 | Middle East
Ariel Sharon: Controversial hardliner
13 Sep 00 | Middle East
Holy Jerusalem: The key to peace
25 Sep 00 | Middle East
Arafat and Barak hold talks
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