About 1000 police took up positions outside the Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary which houses the al-Aqsa mosque.

Sentiments were running high among the Temple Mount Faithful, an ultra-nationalist Israeli group opposed to the Muslim presence, on the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’av, which marks the destruction of the two Biblical temples in 586 BC and 70 AD.

The group, carrying symbolic cornerstones of the Jewish house of worship it has been fighting to build over the mosque, was turned back by police.

Yehiel Hazan, a Likud member of parliament, made his own bid to climb the steps leading to the gate but ran into a wall of police.

“I request my right as a Jew to visit the Temple Mount,” said Hazan.

Following the eruption of the Intifada or Palestinian uprising, non-Muslims were prevented from visiting the holy site. Israel drew outcries from Muslims when it reopened the compound to Jewish tourists three months ago.

The visits were suspended last week ahead of Thursday’s fast day.

More arrests

The latest arrests come a day
after Israel released detainees

Meanwhile, the Israeli army detained eight Palestinians early on Thursday and overnight, including three leaders of the Islamic Jihad group, said military sources.

The three resistance leaders and a fourth unidentified man were apprehended at a military roadblock near the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

Two members of Hamas were also arrested in the West Bank city of Tulkaram. A young woman and an activist from Palestinian President Yasir Arafat’s Fatah movement were detained near Ram Allah.

The detentions come a day after Israel released about 330 Palestinian detainees being held in Israeli jails. Palestinian leaders described the move as a “deception”, saying many of the detainees’ sentences were to be completed this week.

Palestinian resistance groups are calling on Israel to release at least 6000 detainees being held, many without trial or charge, as part of attempts to push forward the US-backed "road map" aimed at ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In another development, three masked Palestinian gunmen executed a Palestinian man in Ram Allah after accusing him of collaborating with Israel, witnesses and security sources said.