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Israel on high alert ahead of Friday prayers
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2007-02-10 14:58

Israeli police has increased security levels throughout the country, particularly in Jerusalem, in light of growing tensions surrounding excavation works near theal-Aqsa Mosque compound, local daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday.

In a meeting held by Israeli Police Commissioner Moshe Karadion Thursday, it was decided to increase the alert level with over 2,000 police officers expected to be stationed throughout the old city of Jerusalem ahead of the Friday noon prayers, said the report.

The daily reported that the city's police force has also called in reinforcements in order to keep peace in the area surrounding the old city with the help of roadblocks. Police forces will also use a zeppelin and a helicopter to locate trouble areas.

In addition, only men over 45 years old in possession of Israeli IDs will be allowed entrance to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, said Yedioth Ahronoth, adding that in a further attempt to calm tensions, the excavations will not continue on Friday or Saturday.

Further more, Karadi has ordered police and Border Guard forces to deploy in massive numbers in crowded places, open markets, shopping areas and main traffic routes along the seam line on Friday.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority on Tuesday began a salvage excavation in the Jerusalem Archeological Park, sitting beneath the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, for the purpose of erecting supporting pillars for a permanent and safe bridge leading to the entrance of the compound.

The bridge will replace the temporary wooden bridge which was built after the original stone ramp leading up to the compound's Mughrabi Gate damaged by earthquake and snowstorms in February 2004.

The compound, where al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock is located, is referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as al-Haramal-Sherif, the Noble Sanctuary.

The al-Aqsa Mosque is Islam's third holiest shrine and has been a focus for Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the past.

Although Israel said the excavations will impose no threat to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Muslims, Arab countries across the Middle East have condemned Israel's move and expressed their concern that the excavation could undermine the peace efforts in the region.

Hundreds of Arabs from across Israel rallied at the excavation site in Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon in protest of the excavations.

In addition, the Islamic movement is planning a mass protest in Israel's northern city of Nazareth Friday afternoon.

A spokesman for the Islamic movement, Zahi Nujidat, told Yedioth Ahronoth that the purpose of the protest was to bring attention to the issue of the excavations and to "make it clear to the entire world that Israel is wrong and deceiving."

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