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Israeli Minister Warns Jewish Extremists Planning Terror Attack on Jerusalem Mosque - 2004-07-24

Israel's Security Minister warned Saturday that right-wing Jews are intending to attack the Temple Mount, the most religiously sensitive site in the Middle East. The area is home to Islam's third holiest shrine and observers fear any harm to the area could provoke a new war in the region.

Israeli Internal Security Minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, says that there is a growing desire among Jewish extremist groups to launch a terror attack on the Temple Mount.

He says the aim of such an attack would be to stop plans by the government to dismantle all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four more in the West Bank by September next year.

Observers say that any politically motivated destruction of the shrine could have even more far reaching consequences, bringing the wrath of the entire Muslim world down upon Israel.

The Temple Mount is located in Jerusalem's walled Old City. It was the site of the Jewish Temples in biblical times making it the holiest place in the Jewish world.

For centuries it has also been the site of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosques, and is regarded as the third most sacred shrine in the Islamic world, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Hanegbi's warning that the site may come under attack follows warnings last week from the head of Israel's secret police who claimed up to 200 right wing Jews wanted to see the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon killed.

Shin Bet chief, Avi Dichter, says that most of these individuals live in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Mr. Sharon has slated for evacuation.

The warnings have prompted calls by Israeli lawmakers for police to immediately arrest and interrogate Jewish extremists suspected of planning terror attacks.