Clash erupts at Temple Mount

Police fire rubber bullets at Palestinian stone throwers in mosque compound
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The Independent Online

Israeli riot police fired rubber bullets Thursday at about 200 Palestinian stone throwers in a key Jerusalem shrine that is revered by Muslims and Jews and whose fate is hotly disputed in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The clash broke out just moments after the leader of Israel's hardline opposition, Ariel Sharon, left the compound, followed by Palestinian chants of "Murderer, get out." About 200 young Palestinians threw stones at hundreds of police, many in full riot gear, who were deployed around the shrine to protect Sharon, leader of the Likud party. Police fired rubber-coated steel pellets at the protesters and marched toward them with clubs to try to push them into nearby buildings. At least three Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets, including one who was struck in the mouth. Two Palestinian demonstrators were treated for head injuries, apparently from police clubs. Police said about two dozen officers were injured by stones. One was rushed to a nearby ambulance on a stretcher. The

Israeli riot police fired rubber bullets Thursday at about 200 Palestinian stone throwers in a key Jerusalem shrine that is revered by Muslims and Jews and whose fate is hotly disputed in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The clash broke out just moments after the leader of Israel's hardline opposition, Ariel Sharon, left the compound, followed by Palestinian chants of "Murderer, get out." About 200 young Palestinians threw stones at hundreds of police, many in full riot gear, who were deployed around the shrine to protect Sharon, leader of the Likud party. Police fired rubber-coated steel pellets at the protesters and marched toward them with clubs to try to push them into nearby buildings. At least three Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets, including one who was struck in the mouth. Two Palestinian demonstrators were treated for head injuries, apparently from police clubs. Police said about two dozen officers were injured by stones. One was rushed to a nearby ambulance on a stretcher. The compound is the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Deadly clashes erupted in 1990 and 1996, as rival claims to the site heated up. The shrine is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, site of the former Jewish Temple, the most sacred shrine of Judaism. Muslims call it Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, home to two major mosques, Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock, that mark the spot where tradition says the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The compound is the third holiest site of Islam, after Mecca and Medina. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are hung up because of a dispute over who will control the holy shrine. For now, Muslim clerics have autonomy in administering the site, although Israeli police remains in charge of security. Palestinian leaders said Sharon's visit, intended to demonstrate Israeli sovereignty claims, was a provocation. Sharon denied the allegation. "What provocation is there when Jews come to visit the place with a message of peace?" he said. When Sharon began his visit Thursday morning, accompanied by members of his Likud party, about 1,000 Israeli police were deployed around the site. Young Palestinians defiantly shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great). Some tried to break through the police cordon but were pushed back. Faisal Husseini, a senior Palestinian official responsible for Jerusalem, was struck in the leg by a policeman's club. After his Temple Mount visit, Sharon stopped at the Western Wall, a remnant of the Temple and today the holiest site of Judaism. Some Jewish worshippers cheered and clapped when they spotted Sharon., The mosque compound has been the site of bloody clashes in the past. In 1990, rumors that Jewish extremists planned to start rebuilding the Temple started a riot in which 17 Palestinians were killed and scores wounded by police gunfire. In 1996, the Israeli government opened an archeological tunnel just outside the compound, sparking riots in which 80 people, most of them Palestinians, were killed.

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