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Israel Storms Mosque Complex  in Jerusalem - 2004-02-27

Israeli police stormed a mosque complex in Jerusalem's Old City Friday to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing Muslim demonstrators. There are reports that several demonstrators and police officers were slightly injured.

The violence broke out after Friday prayers at the hilltop Haram al-Sharif complex inside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City.

Israeli police in full riot gear stormed the compound, and used stun grenades to disperse the crowds. A police spokesman said the action was taken after hundreds of Muslim worshippers began rioting and throwing stones.

The Haram al-Sharif is home to the al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock mosques, and is one of Islam's holiest sites. The same site is also sacred to Judaism, and is known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall at the base of the Temple Mount were briefly evacuated Friday, after some of the demonstrators threw stones down at them.

The area has been the scene of periodic clashes. It was there that the current round of Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out over three years ago.

Friday's clashes in Jerusalem follow a week of Palestinian protests against the barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank. Two Palestinian demonstrators were killed in one such protest on Thursday. Anti-barrier protests continued on Friday.

Israel says the barrier is needed to keep out suicide bombers and prevent terrorist attacks, but Palestinians say it's an Israeli ploy to confiscate more Palestinian land.

This past week, the International Court of Justice in The Hague held three days of hearings on the legality of the barrier. The Court's findings, which are non-binding, are not expected for several months.