Posted: 05 October 2009 0456 hrs
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Masked Palestinian youths hurl stones at Israeli border policemen during clashes in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM : Israeli police and Palestinian protesters on Sunday clashed near Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a flashpoint site in Jerusalem sacred to Muslims and Jews that saw similar unrest a week ago.
The altercation occurred after Israeli authorities closed the holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem and 150 to 200 people gathered to pray outside the Lion’s Gate, which leads into the compound, police and witnesses said.
The clashes erupted shortly afterwards, with worshippers throwing stones and security forces hurling stun grenades and firing a water cannon, according to witnesses.
Medics said seven people were wounded and police said three were arrested.
The Old City remained calm but tense hours after the clashes, with dozens of Israeli law enforcement personnel deployed throughout the narrow streets of the city, holy to the world’s three main monotheistic faiths.
Police said they had closed access to Al-Aqsa compound, known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount, after mosque loudspeakers in the Old City urged people to gather there.
"We closed the access to the Temple Mount following incitations to violence over (mosque) loudspeakers," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
Witnesses said the call followed rumours which swept through the Old City that Israeli authorities were going to allow Jewish settlers to enter the compound during the current Jewish festival of Sukkot.
"They want to keep us away so they can impose their will and allow settlers to enter Al-Aqsa," Yusuf Mukheimar, one of the organisers of Sunday’s prayer, told AFP.
Overnight, a group of several dozen Palestinians entered the mosque compound to confront any such visits by Jewish extremists, witnesses said.
Access to the holy site on Monday will be allowed only to Muslim men over the age of 50 and women holding Israeli identity cards, police announced on Sunday evening.
The Islamist Hamas movement ruling the Gaza Strip meanwhile lashed out at Israel over the clashes, saying "the leaders of the occupation will bear the dangerous consequences of any escalation."
"The continuation of these Zionist plots against the Al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem is a fuse that could ignite the entire region," the group’s parliamentary bloc said in a statement.
The Palestinian Authority issued a statement urging the international community to "immediately intervene and bring the question of the Al-Aqsa mosque before the United Nations Security Council."
Jordan meanwhile on Sunday summoned Israel’s ambassador in Amman to demand a halt to "repeated violations" by the Jewish state at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the foreign ministry said.
"Such actions are illegal and illegitimate and violate Israel’s commitments as an occupying force and threaten the peace process," it said in a statement.
One week ago several people were wounded in unrest that erupted after a group of tourists entered the mosque compound. Police said the group was made up of French tourists, but the Palestinians insisted they were Israeli extremists.
The site of the mosque compound is the holiest in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam, and has often been the flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, erupted there in September 2000 after a visit by Ariel Sharon, a right-wing politician who went on to become Israeli prime minister the following year.