Police on alert at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa

2012-02-21 12:00
Jerusalem - Israeli police were on high alert around the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on Tuesday over fears that Jewish and Muslim groups were set to clash at the flashpoint site, a spokesperson said.

The alert was raised after various Muslim groups posted calls online urging people to head to the compound to "protect" it after a Jewish group of rightwing extremists said they were planning to visit, police spokesperson Luba Samri said.

Police were deployed around Al-Aqsa and throughout the Old City "following various calls on different internet sites by terrorist groups calling on people to go protect the compound after calls from the extreme right to come today", Samri said in a statement.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said 15 vans of riot police were parked by the Dung Gate near the Mughrabi ramp, which runs from the Western Wall plaza up to the walled mosque compound.

On Sunday, police used tear gas to disperse Palestinians who were throwing stones at tourists and police inside the compound, and arrested 13 people.

Holy site

Police said it was not clear why the disturbances broke out, but Palestinian witnesses said the stonethrowers had been targeting religious Jews who entered the site among a group of Christian tourists.

A similar protest took place last week when a group of Jewish nationalist hardliners tried to visit the site.

The walled compound, which is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), is home to the third holiest site in Islam.

The plaza is also venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount, the site where King Herod's temple once stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

It is the holiest site in Judaism, but Jews are forbidden to worship there.

Read more on:    israel  |  middle east peace  |  religion

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