About 70,000 Palestinians from the 1948 area, also known as the Green Line, participated in an annual rally organised by the Islamic Movement in Israel on Friday, under the banner "Al-Aqsa in Danger", Aljazeera's correspondent reported.

The al-Aqsa festival is an annual event organised by Palestinians to highlight Palestinian unity and to emphasise the importance of holy sites to religious groups, the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) in particular since it has been targeted by extremist Jewish groups, such as the Kach movement.

Aljazeera's correspondent said Mufti of Jerusalem Shaikh Aikrima Sabri, spokesperson for the Orthodox Church in Palestine Ata Allah Hanna, and MPs of the Knesset were spoke at the rally.

The rally has seen Muslim and Christian participation from around the globe expressing their support for the Palestinian cause and calling on the international community to focus on Israel's human rights abuses.

Participants from other parts of the world, including South Africa, have over the years highlighted the similarities between apartheid-era South Africa and Israel at the annual event.

Barred

Previous events were marred by Israel detaining leaders or banning them from attending the rally. The Mufti of Jerusalem was among those detained in the past over the period of the rally, preventing him from addressing the crowd.

This year, the head of the Islamic Movement in the 1948 area, Shaikh Raid Salah, was unable to attend the event as he is in prison, facing charges of supporting Palestinian organisations accused by Israel of funding the intifada.

Israel controls the entrances to
the Haram al-Sharif compound 

Deputy head of the Islamic Movement Shaikh Kamal al-Khatib, in his address to the public, said Palestinians in the 1948 area would carry out a general strike in Israel next month calling for the release of political prisoners including Shaikh Raid.

Demonstrators also chanted slogans in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons, some held for years without trial.

Worshippers restricted

Others chanted slogans for freedom from Israeli oppression and called on Tel Aviv to stop restrictions on Muslims visiting the Noble Sanctuary.

Worshippers from the West Bank and Gaza are still barred from the Noble Sanctuary while Israel allows religious Jews to enter the compound.

Palestinians fear a repetition of the Ibrahimi mosque incident in Hebron where Israel took control of the mosque under the guise of security and assigned the bulk of the holy site to Jews at the expense of Muslims and Christians.

Some Palestinians believe Israel has similar plans with the al-Aqsa mosque situated in the Noble Sanctuary.

The al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock are collectively known as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). Originally built in 711 CE (AD 711), al-Aqsa mosque is Islam's third holiest place, after the two Holy mosques in Saudi Arabia.

New threats

Jewish extremists have tried to 
destroy the al-Aqsa mosque

Israel
recently announced that Jewish extremists had new plans to attack the Noble Sanctuary using a drone aircraft.

The announcement was made by Israel's Public Security Minister, Tzahi Hanegbi in a televised interview, prompting stern warnings from Muslims around the globe.

Extremist Jews are known to have made numerous attempts at attacking the Noble Sanctuary since Israel's inception in 1948.
They believe the destruction of the al-Aqsa mosque and the construction of a temple would ensure the coming of a messiah as their saviour, who will rule the world from Jerusalem.

Palestinians believe that was one of the reasons for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's provocative visit, with heavily armed soldiers, to the Noble Sanctuary in September 2000, triggering the ongoing intifada.