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Israeli Police, Palestinian Protesters Clash Near Jerusalem Holy Site


Israeli police and Palestinian protesters have clashed near a hotly disputed holy place in Jerusalem after Friday Muslim prayers. The riot was quickly contained, and 15 people were arrested. But as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, tensions between Jews and Muslims remain high.

Israeli police threw stun grenades and used water canons to disperse Palestinian stone throwers outside Jerusalem's Old City.

They were protesting Israeli renovations near the Mosque of Al Aqsa, the third holiest place in Islam. For Jews it is the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism and site of the two biblical Temples.

Muslims claim the construction work could damage the foundations of the mosque, a charge Israel denies.

Last Friday, police stormed into the Al Aqsa compound to quell Palestinian riots, but this week, tight security pushed the protests outside the Old City walls. Some 3,000 police deployed, and to forestall unrest at the mosque itself, Palestinian men under the age of 50 were barred from entering the compound.

Raed Saleh, the leader of Israel's Islamic Movement who has been leading the struggle against the renovations, was not allowed to enter Al Aqsa. So he gave a fiery sermon at a mosque in nearby East Jerusalem.

Saleh said Palestinian blood was on the clothes of Israelis, in the food they eat and water they drink. He called on Muslims to begin a third "intifada," or uprising, against Israel. After the sermon, clashes erupted with police.

Israeli police chief Moshe Karadi said that could be grounds for a criminal investigation.

Karadi said police would study Saleh's statements and decide if he should be charged with incitement and rebellion.

The Israeli government says it will not cave in to Muslim threats and that the renovations will continue. But in an attempt to show Muslims that there is no damage to the mosque, cameras are broadcasting live pictures from the construction site over the Internet 24 hours a day.

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