Clashes erupt at al-Aqsa mosque

Israeli police disperse worshipers with tear gas and stun grenades.

    Demonstrations had earlier taken place close
    to the al-Aqsa compound [AFP]

    Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said the sheikh of the mosque made calls for calm came over the mosques loudspeaker system, usually used for the call to prayer.

     

    Israel had deployed 3,000 police officers around Jerusalem's Old City ahead of Muslim prayers at the mosque compound, amid widespread Arab anger over Israeli excavation work nearby.

     
    Ilan Franco, Jerusalem police chief, said officers were posted on Friday amid "intelligence indications" that disturbances could erupt.

     

    Arab states say the work could damage the foundations of the mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

     

    Israeli authorities say the building work, begun on Tuesday, is being carried out to replace a centuries-old ramp 60 metres away.

     

    'Day of anger'

     

    A day of "anger" on the Muslim day of rest has been called by Tayssir al-Tamimi, the Palestinian chief justice, who on Tuesday called for "all Palestinians to go and protect al-Aqsa against Israeli plans that aim to destroy the mosque".

     

    Thousands of Muslims regularly attend Friday prayers at the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

     

    For Jews it is the Temple Mount and the sacred site of their biblical temples.

     

    International observers have said that the excavation work risks igniting a third Palestinian intifada [uprising] against Israel.

     

    A controversial visit to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in 2000 by Ariel Sharon, then leader of the Israeli opposition, sparked the most recent intifada.

     

    Restricted access

     

    "[Saudi Arabia] appeals to the world community to intervene resolutely to stop this Israeli aggression and confront these actions that aim to tamper with the religious identity of Jerusalem"

    Saudi Arabia statement

    Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said entrance to the Friday prayers would be restricted.

     

    West Bank Palestinians would be barred, as would Israeli Arab and east Jerusalem men under 45, he said.

     

    An Arab group at the United Nations appealed on Thursday to the UN security council to stop the excavation work.

     

    In a statement, Arab ambassadors asked the Security Council "to take immediate and urgent measures to put an end to Israeli violations and to guarantee its respect for international law and security council resolutions".

     

    They said in a statement they "denounced the Israeli occupation authority's escalation of its aggression on Islamic endowments in occupied East Jerusalem by starting to destroy a historic route."

     

    'Provocation'

     

    Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has condemned the Israeli excavations as a provocation to Muslims.

     

    "[Saudi Arabia] appeals to the world community to intervene resolutely to stop this Israeli aggression and confront these actions that aim to tamper with the religious identity of Jerusalem ... and are a provocation to Muslims around the world," Saudi officials said in a statement.

     

    Israeli officials have said some Muslim commentators are using the renovation work as a pretext to stoke anger against Israel.

     

    Speaking during a visit to Spain on Thursday, Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, accused "political extremists" of trying to "exploit this situation".

     

    Muslims believe the compound, home to the golden-capped Dome of the Rock shrine and al-Aqsa mosque, is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

     

    Israel has controlled the compound since the 1967 Mideast War, but has left its administration largely to the Jordanian-controlled Waqf trust and the Palestinians.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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