Tight security averts Jerusalem protests | india | Hindustan Times
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Tight security averts Jerusalem protests

india Updated: Feb 16, 2007 23:54 IST

Thousands of Muslims attended prayers at the holy Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem under heavy police guard on Friday amid fears of protests against contested Israeli works that were slammed from the pulpit.

However, worshippers dispersed peacefully and, although police arrested 15 people in east Jerusalem, isolated skirmishes came in stark contrast to riots last Friday that saw Israeli police storm the revered mosque compound.

Adnan al-Husseini, director of the Waqf religious trust, said 2,500 worshippers attended the prayers -- amid stringent police restrictions -- although police put the number at 6,000. Normally tens of thousands attend.

Palestinians and Muslims all over the world have condemned nearby Israeli archaeological excavations and repair work, since stalled, which they claim endanger the foundations of Islam's third holiest site.

"The Israeli work poses great danger to our mosque and we demand a complete halt because it heralds destruction and death," said cleric Yussef Abu Sneineh.

"No one with any sense plays with fire," he added from the pulpit, taking a stab at the Israeli authorities.

Accusing police of transforming the revered compound into a "battleground" last Friday, when Palestinian stonethrowers clashed with the riot squad, he urged worshippers to go quietly this week to avoid further troubles.