Arafat: Sharon Visit to Jerusalem Mosque Compound 'Dangerous'
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat branded as "a dangerous step" Thursday's visit by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, which sparked violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police.
At least 29 people were hurt Thursday when Israeli police fired on stone-throwing Palestinians protesting the visit of Sharon to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City Thursday, witnesses said.
At least four Palestinians were hit by rubber bullets fired by the police, while 25 policemen were hurt by stones, one of whom was hospitalized, according to police.
The Palestinians had denounced Sharon's visit as provocative, amid deadlock over which side would have sovereignty over the site in a future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
"We came with a message of peace," Sharon said as he left the compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount, claiming that four Arab members of the Israeli parliament had orchestrated the disturbances.
Israeli police chief Yehuda Wilk also said that the presence of the Arab MPs "made the atmosphere more tense and our job more difficult."
The Palestinian parliament warned Israel Wednesday of serious consequences if Sharon went ahead with a planned visit to the mosque compound in east Jerusalem, the third holiest site for Muslims.
The Parliament issued a statement calling on the Israeli government to "stop this visit which risks provoking an explosion of the situation and endangering the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."
The Palestinian information ministry expressed concern in another statement over possible "repetition of the carnage of October 1990" on the mosque compound, which left 18 Palestinians dead after the Israeli army opened fire on people throwing stones at Jews praying below at the Wailing Wall.
The head of the Waqf, the organization in charge of running Muslim interests there, Adnan Husseini, told public radio that Thursday's planned visit was "provocation."
Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Belin also criticized the plan on the radio, saying the moment was particularly badly chosen.
Both were speaking Tuesday – (AFP)
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