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Israeli Police, Palestinians Clash at Al-Aqsa Mosque - 2002-10-04

At least four Palestinians have been hurt in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank, including a 12-year-old boy who was critically injured by Israeli tank fire. Clashes also broke out briefly Friday at one of Jerusalem's holiest sites. Israeli police entered the al-Aqsa mosque compound, after Palestinian youths threw stones at police and Jewish worshippers below.

Palestinian medical sources say 12-year-old Ibrahim Madani suffered severe head injuries from Israeli tank fire near the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. Witnesses said the boy was hit when Israeli forces fired on a Palestinian taxi driver, who was breaking the curfew in the West Bank town.

An Israeli raid into the northern West Bank town of Jenin also sparked clashes. Sporadic violence was also reported in the Gaza Strip.

There was a brief clash in Jerusalem's old walled city after Muslim prayers Friday. About 50 Israeli police stormed the al-Aqsa mosque compound and threw stun grenades into the crowd. Police said they acted after several dozen Palestinian youths at the mosque threw stones at police at an entrance to the compound and some of those stones fell on Jews praying below at the Western Wall.

Jewish worshippers were briefly evacuated, and Islamic religious authorities also helped calm the crowds of Muslim worshippers. Police withdrew from the compound after a brief time, and there have been no reports of injuries or damage.

The mosque compound, which includes the al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock mosques, is known to Muslims as the Haram as-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary. It is considered the third holiest site in Islam. The same area is known to Jews as the Temple Mount,and is a highly revered place of worship, since it includes the Western Wall, the last remaining structure of the ancient Jewish Temple.

The compound has been the scene of frequent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.