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Jews and Muslims Clash on Controversial Jerusalem Anniversary


Israelis and Palestinians have clashed at a hotly disputed holy site in Jerusalem. The violence was sparked by a controversial anniversary.

Israeli police stormed the Mosque of al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City, and used stun grenades to disperse hundreds of Palestinians who threw stones at Jewish visitors.

"With spirit and blood, we will defend al-Aqsa!" the Palestinians chanted. Al-Aqsa is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, the third holiest place in Islam, but for the Jews, it is the Temple Mount, the site of the two biblical Temples and the holiest place in Judaism. There were no serious injuries, and police quickly withdrew.

The clash was sparked by Israel's celebration of Jerusalem Day, marking the 38th anniversary of the capture of the eastern half of the city from Jordan during the Six Day War in 1967.

Thousands of Israelis marched through the streets, singing national songs and waving flags. Among them was Michael Sandberg, who told VOA, "For 2,000 years, the Jews have been saying, 'Next year, in Jerusalem,' you know this is the heart and soul of the Jewish people."

But Muslims, like shopkeeper Naif Ahmad, see Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state.

"This is our country," he said. "You must know we are under occupation."

At the main Jerusalem Day ceremony, Israel staked its claim to all of the city.

"Jerusalem is the anchor and heart of hearts of the Jewish people," said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, "and we will never be separated from it again. Jerusalem will remain the united capital of the state of Israel forever."

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