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Israeli Police Enter Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound - 2001-07-29


Hundreds of Israeli police have stormed a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem. Several police and Palestinians were injured.

Israeli police stormed the contested Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, after Palestinians threw stones at Jewish worshipers praying at the Western Wall. Police say they used tear gas and fired stun grenades to disperse the rock-throwers.

Police had augmented their ranks in Jerusalem in anticipation of Palestinian riots on Tisha B'Av, the day Jews mourn the destruction of the biblical temples more than two-thousand years ago.

Although most religious Jews commemorate Tisha B'Av by fasting, a small group of ultra-nationalist Jews wanted to perform a cornerstone-laying ceremony earlier at the sensitive site.

Instead, police escorted the group to a gate of Jerusalem's Old City outside the compound. There, the group laid a four-and-a half-ton cornerstone, symbolizing the third temple. The cornerstone was then removed.

Palestinians had declared a "day of rage" and warned against allowing the Jewish group to enter the compound. They had called on Muslims to gather at the mosque to prevent Jews from laying the cornerstone there.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces were touched off last September when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then head of the political opposition, visited the site with a large police presence.

More than 650 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed in the 10 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Meanwhile, a fierce gun battle between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers broke out Sunday outside of the West Bank city of Ramallah. The Israeli army says it began when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli army jeep.