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Israel Deploys Thousands of Police; Outrage Grows Among Palestinians   


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Israel has deployed thousands of police around Jerusalem's Old City, following several recent clashes between Jews and Palestinian Muslims at the compound that houses sites holy to both groups.

Israeli police deployed thousands of additional officers at entrances to the Old City leading to the compound containing the Al Aqsa mosque - sacred to Muslims and the Western Wall - Judaism's holiest site.

Clashes have erupted during the past week between Muslims and Jewish worshippers, fueled largely by rumors that Jews were planning to storm the compound.

Israel national police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says Monday was especially sensitive as 30,000 Jewish worshippers approached the compound - known to Jews as the Temple Mount - at the start of the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

"The Temple Mount was open to Muslims that wanted to come and pray only from the age of 50 upwards, and women of all ages," Rosenfeld explained. "This was necessary to prevent any disturbances from taking place on the Temple Mount."

Among those prevented from approaching the area was 36-year-old Dmitri Diliani, a member of the Revolutionary Council of the ruling Palestinian Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"This is pure provocation of the Palestinian people since this is one of the holiest Muslim sites," Diliani said.

Diliani, a Christian, serves as the Fatah spokesman for Jerusalem. He told VOA that Fatah is encouraging Palestinian Muslims to resist what he views as Jewish efforts to take over the compound.

"Fatah stands at a point where it will continue to organize the process of defending the holy sites through popular effort and grass-roots mobilization," he said.

Monday saw mobilization by Palestinians against their own leadership, as anger mounts over a decision by the government of President Abbas to suspend efforts to bring war crimes charges against Israeli officials involved in the assault on militants in the Gaza Strip 10 months ago.

Hundreds of Palestinians protested peacefully in the West Bank town of Ramallah near Jerusalem. The protesters included Mustafa Barghouthi, a prominent commentator, who said the Palestinian leaders' decision showed little regard for the people they represent.

"They lack the ability to have collective decision," Barghouthi said. "There was no consultation and I think they made a grave mistake against the interests of their own people."

Israel says it will maintain heightened security in Jerusalem until the tension around the holy sites subsides.

In 2000, confrontations at the site of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Western Wall sparked a bloody, Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada, which lasted for several years.

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