Jews visit contested Jerusalem holy site on day of mourning



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JERUSALEM (AP) — Over a thousand Jewish visitors ascended a contested Jerusalem holy site on Tuesday to mark Tisha B'av, the Jewish day of mourning over the destruction of the biblical temples.

The site has been at the center of recent tensions after Israel installed, and then removed, metal detectors there following the deadly shooting of two Israeli policemen. Muslims administer the compound, home to the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, while Jews can visit but not pray there.

Muslims refer to the site as the Noble Sanctuary, while Jews call it the Temple Mount. It is considered the holiest place in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.

Police said the number of Jewish visitors to the site was the largest in a single day in recent years, and religious nationalist groups claimed it was the largest since Israel took control of the shrine in the 1967 Mideast war.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said nine Jewish visitors were removed for violating the guidelines. She said three Jews and one Muslim were arrested after a minor skirmish.

Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Muslim administration, Waqf, said the number of Jewish visitors was "unprecedented, unacceptable and should stop."

Israel's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef also issued a statement saying Jews who visited the site were "desecrating its holiness" and violating Jewish custom, which proscribes entering the holy compound.

Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki, who spoke at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, denounced the "annual massive assault against Al Aqsa on the occasion of the anniversary of the so-called destruction of the temple."

The OIC condemned "Israel's recent provocative actions" at the contested holy site and warned against "any similar steps in the future would be unacceptable and illegal and shall be confronted by the Organization."

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