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Israel Closes Temple Mount to 'Non-Muslims'


JERUSALEM, ISRAEL -- Israel Police closed the Temple Mount to non-Muslims Thursday, following Wednesday's riots that injured two officers.

Police beefed up its security presence in the Old City as thousands of Israelis, joined by visitors from abroad, gathered at the Kotel (Western Wall) Thursday to take part in the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing), held during Passover in the spring and Sukkot in the fall.

The day before, police used riot control gear against Arab youth who pelted them with rocks and firebombs as they opened the entrance to the Temple Mount used by non-Muslims. Arabs also wounded another officer in a rock-throwing incident in one of the Old City's narrow streets.

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told reporters the P.A.'s claim that "dozens of worshippers" were hurt in "fierce clashes with Israeli forces storming the al-Aksa Mosque compound" was a fabrication.

Palestinians and the Arab world refer to the Temple Mount, where two consecutive Jewish Temples once stood until the second was destroy by the Romans in 70 AD., as the al-Aksa compound after the mosque on the site.

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