Israel votes to continue repairs on holy site

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The Independent Online

The Israeli cabinet voted overwhelmingly yesterday to continue building a contentious footbridge to what the Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims, the Haram al-Sharif, and to finish as quickly as possible. Jerusalem was quiet after a violent confrontation on Friday in which 17 Israeli policemen and 23 Palestinian rioters were injured. Work resumed after a pause for the Jewish Sabbath. Security forces were on high alert, with 2,000 police deployed in and around the Old City.

Muslims claim that the construction and accompanying archaeological rescue dig endanger the Al- Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine. Israel insists the work is necessary for visitors' safety and is outside the compound.

Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, said that Israel would not let Hamas and Israel's own Muslim extremists dictate what to do 20 metres from the Jewish Western Wall. "This is our territory and our sovereignty," he argued. Mr Olmert maintained that the bridge, which replaces an unstable old earthen ramp, was being built in coordination with the Palestinian and Jordanian Muslim authorities.