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Israeli PM Angered by Palestinian Report on Western Wall

Israeli Ultra-orthodox Jews, in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, 25 Sep 2010

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the Palestinian leadership to renounce an official report asserting that the Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites, is not Jewish.

Mr. Netanyahu's office issued a statement Thursday saying the Palestinian Authority Information Ministry's denial of the link between the Jewish people and the Western Wall is "baseless and scandalous."

The Palestinian government's deputy information minister, Al-Mutawakil Taha, published a five-page study Wednesday disputing Jews' reverence of the shrine, considered the last remnant of the Second Temple. It is also Israel's biggest tourist attraction.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem, where the Western Wall is located, after the 1967 conflict and claimed all of the city as its capital in a move that is not recognized internationally.

The wall is adjacent to a politically sensitive holy complex known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. The area is home to the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site in Islam.

In his report, Taha wrote the Western Wall is "a Muslim wall and an integral part of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock," a position echoing past statements by late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Taha issued the document after Israel on Sunday approved a five-year renovation plan for the Western Wall area.

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources said Israeli forces razed a mosque and more than 10 other structures in two areas of the occupied West Bank Thursday.

Most of the demolition activity took place in the village of Khirbet Yarza in the northern Jordan Valley, where residents said troops had razed a very old mosque and its much larger extension, which was built last year.

Israeli officials say the structures were temporary and built without permits in a military fire zone. Palestinian villagers said the mosque was built before 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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