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Militant Jews Ascend Holy Mosque

December 7, 1999

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Militant Jews burned Palestinian flags and ascended one of Islam’s holiest mosques Tuesday to protest Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s acquiescence to a new Muslim-built entrance there.

Barak and security officials had determined the new entrance to the Al Aqsa mosque compound was necessary for crowds expected during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which begins this week. But Israeli archaeologists, opposition leaders and legal officials have protested the opening, saying Jewish archaeological sites were damaged during construction.

The site, also known as Temple Mount, is holy to both Muslims and Jews.

Barak defended his decision in a meeting of top officials Tuesday. He pledged to make sure Israeli sovereignty and law are maintained at the compound, which in the past has been a flashpoint for violence.

``The government will continue to act to see to it that the law is obeyed,″ Barak told reporters in Jerusalem. He said he already prevented the Muslims from widening the entrance beyond a mere emergency door.

Protesting the decision, several members of the Temple Mount Faithful group tore up and burned cardboard Palestinian flags in front of Palestinian headquarters in east Jerusalem. The demonstrators also stomped on a mock coffin with the word ``Palestine″ written on the side.

The Palestinian-controlled Islamic authority, or Waqf, oversees the compound, the third holiest site to Muslims. It is located on the site of the Jewish Temple that was last destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.

East Jerusalem, where the Al Aqsa compound is located, was captured and annexed by Israel in 1967. The Palestinians claim that sector of the city as the capital of a future state.

Elsewhere Tuesday, the Israeli army prevented Jewish worshippers from entering a holy site in the West Bank city of Nablus after an Israeli swore at a Palestinian police officer near the sanctuary, Israel radio reported.

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