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Israeli police storm Jerusalem mosque compound

Two ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protect themselves inside a bus from Palestinian rioters outside Jerusalem's Old City on Wednesday.
Two ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protect themselves inside a bus from Palestinian rioters outside Jerusalem's Old City on Wednesday.Bernat Armangue / AP
/ Source: news services

Israeli police forces stormed a disputed Jerusalem holy site Wednesday to stop Palestinian rioters from throwing stones at Jewish worshippers.

Police on Wednesday briefly moved onto the hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and took up positions.

The site is the most explosive in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in the past, even seemingly minor incidents have ignited clashes and protests throughout the region.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says the stone throwers fled into the Al Aqsa Mosque, and after the situation quieted, riot forces pulled back.

Palestinian youths have been clashing with police throughout the day following the deadly shooting of a Palestinian man by an Israeli security guard.

Palestinian officials said the killing of a 32-year-old resident of East Jerusalem and subsequent police response had undermined nascent U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations.

Israeli authorities said the guard, who provided government-funded protection for a small Jewish settlement in the Silwan district, opened fire on dozens of Palestinians who had blocked and stoned his car before dawn.

"It was his life or theirs," said Ariel Rosenberg, spokesman for Israel's Construction and Housing Ministry.

Silwan residents took to the streets after the incident, overturning two cars, torching two others and throwing rocks at police and passersby. Police said they responded with teargas, water cannon and stun grenades.

At least seven Israeli civilians and a policeman were hurt in the clashes, police said. Silwan residents said two Palestinians were wounded in the initial shooting and more in later confrontations, but exact figures were not available.

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of the dead man, who had 5 children, and confrontations spread to the nearby Old City, where the al-Aqsa mosque abuts the Western Wall.

The flare-up came as peace talks between Israeli and Palestinians faced a crisis over the issue of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.

A partial Israeli moratorium on settlement building expires on Sunday and Palestinians say they will quit the talks if Israel carries through with a decision not to extend the freeze.

Israel captured East Jerusalem along with the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war and regards all of the city as its capital -- a status not recognized internationally. Many settlers claim a Jewish biblical birthright to the region.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they intend to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.