Far-right Israel minister makes brief visit to Al-Aqsa mosque

AFP , Sunday 16 Mar 2014

A far-right Israeli cabinet minister on Sunday paid a brief visit to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, police said.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel, deputy leader of the hardline national religious Jewish Home party, made a short visit to the plaza during the morning as Israel marked the one-day Jewish festival of Purim, police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.

"The housing minister paid a visit to the Temple Mount which lasted just a few minutes," she said. Ariel also confirmed the visit in remarks to public radio.

After the visit, clashes broke out between stone-throwing Palestinian youths and Israeli police at the site, Samri said. Seven Palestinians were arrested for disturbing the peace.

Known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa compound, the site is considered sacred to both faiths.

Located directly above the Western Wall plaza, it is revered as Judaism's holiest place, as it marks where the first and second Jewish temples once stood.

Today, the plaza houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque and is considered the third holiest site in Islam.

By law, Jews are not allowed to pray at the site and although non-Muslim visitors are permitted, such high-profile visits by rightwing government figures are very rare and tend to stoke tensions.

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