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Middle East
Israel seals off occupied West Bank
Full closure for 48 hours imposed in anticipation of protests after Friday prayers.
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2010 15:22 GMT
Israel has deployed additional troops
at the al-Aqsa mosque [File: AFP]

Israel has imposed a full closure of the occupied Palestinian territory of West Bank for 48 hours.

Ehud Barak, the defence minister, made the move on Friday amid reports about the possibility of fresh protests by Palestinians around the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem after Friday prayers.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, in Jerusalem, said that there had been some skirmishes around Jerusalem's Old City.

"We heard from police that there was some Palestinians throwing rocks and they tried to calm the situation by using the least amount of force necessary, they told us," Tadros said.

"But generally the situation here has remained calm."

Hundreds of men under the age of 50 were prevented from entering al-Aqsa mosque on Friday, she said.

Israel maintains it is a necessary step to protect its citizens from attack.

Additional forces

Authorities in Jerusalem have deployed additional forces at the al-Aqsa mosque in view of the anticipated protests.

The compound, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, has been the site of a number of violent incidents.

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Clashes erupted last week after Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, announced plans to include two sites in the West Bank on a list of Israeli heritage sites.

Skirmishes also broke out after Friday prayers in the West Bank city of Hebron, but no serious injuries were reported.

"After protests last Friday and last Sunday, Israeli officials fear there could be more disturbances," our correspondent said.

"They see this as just an added security measure. But there is a heavy presence of Israeli security here.

"Certainly there is a lot of tension in the air."

She said that many Palestinians "want to make a point" about recent moves by Israel to expand settlements in the occupied territories of West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"They feel their presence in East Jerusalem is under attack, as is their access to religious sites," Tadros said.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem after the 1967 Middle East war and built settlements that are illegal under international law to house more than 200,000 Israelis.

The occupation has never been recognised by the international community. Palestinians denounce settlements in East Jerusalem, which they want to make the capital of their future state.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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