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September 14, 2003

By Amos Harel and Jonathan Lis
Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and Agencies

Police storm Temple Mount to disperse stone-throwers
Angry Palestinian demonstrators clashed with police after traditional midday Friday prayers at Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Dozens of Muslims threw stones at Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall.

Police stormed the mosque compound and fired tear gas and stun grenades at Palestinians to disperse the demonstrators. Two men were arrested by police, on suspicion of inciting the worhshippers. They were protesting against the Israeli government's decision "in principle" Thursday evening to expel Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

"After Palestinian youngsters on the Temple Mount threw rocks, a police contingent burst on to the compound," a police spokesman said after the end of Muslim Friday prayers at the site.

Four policemen were lightly injured in the disturbances. The commander of the Jerusalem police district, Mickey Levy, said that he was convinced that Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat was behind the disturbances in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank.

Around 30,000 Palestinian worshippers participated in Friday prayers on the Temple Mount, among them youth who had prepared stockpiles of stones to throw at Jews praying at the Western Wall.

In Ramallah about a hundred Palestinians demonstrated for the Palestinian chief after Friday prayers. Earlier Friday, Palestinians fired four mortar shells at a settlement in the Gaza Strip; there were no injuries, Israel Radio reported.

The Israel Defense Forces conducted an operation in the West Bank city of Tul Karm overnight and Friday morning, arresting 13 Palestinians and conducting exchanges of gunfire with militants that Palestinian sources said wounded three people, the radio reported. An explosive device blew up near the soldiers, but didn't wound them.

Overnight, troops destroyed the house of Hamas activist Izadeen Miseq in the West Bank city of Hebron. Miseq commanded several Hamas groups in the Hebron area, according to the report.

In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians fired anti-tank missiles and shots at Israeli troops overnight, but caused no injuries, Israel Radio reported.