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Archive for Saturday, November 1, 2003

Ramadan prayers restricted

Israeli troops scuffle with worshippers

November 1, 2003

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— Israeli troops scuffled Friday with Muslim worshippers making their way to Jerusalem from the West Bank for special prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, injuring one Palestinian.

The trouble came as Israel imposed tight rules on who could attend the prayers, which are held at a disputed site known as the Temple Mount to Jews and Haram as-Sharif to Muslims. Authorities put age restrictions in place to weed out the young.

Also Friday, the United States offered a $5 million reward in the investigation of a deadly bombing of a U.S. convoy in Gaza.

About 175,000 Palestinians flocked to the sacred hilltop plaza for Ramadan prayers, while others were turned away at army checkpoints. Control over the site, revered by Muslims and Jews, is one of the most hotly contested issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Muslims revere the plaza as the site where the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. It is Judaism's holiest site, marking the spot where two biblical Jewish temples, destroyed by invading armies, were located.

A trip to the compound in September 2000 by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- then Israel's opposition leader -- to demonstrate Israeli claims to the site set off days of rioting that widened into the current fighting.

Fearing youths would provoke clashes, police limited visitors from outside Jerusalem to older, married Palestinians. Men had to be older than 45, and women at least 35, said police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby. Police set the quota at 4,000 from the West Bank and 1,000 from the Gaza Strip.

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