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Clashes at iconic Al-Aqsa mosque raise tensions ahead of Obama visit

Israeli police entered Jerusalem's holiest site to disperse hundreds of Palestinians who were throwing rocks. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

TEL AVIV, Israel — Dozens of Israeli security officers and Palestinian worshipers clashed at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on Friday, amid rising tensions ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama. 

According to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, police entered Al-Aqsa after Palestinians threw stones and two firebombs at them.  The situation was under control, although there were still several masked men in the mosque, which the police would not enter, he said.

Al-Aqsa is one of Islam's holiest sites. It is also revered by Jews as the site of their Biblical temple.

Mahmoud Ilean / AP

Israeli forces enter the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday.

Some have blamed a 2000 visit to the area by then-Likud leader Ariel Sharon and Israeli security forces for helping to spark the Palestinians' Second Uprising — or Intifada. 

The latest clashes erupted in the wake of unconfirmed reports that an Israeli security guard  entered Al-Aqsa, beat a child and kicked the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

Two days ago, right-wing politician Moshe Feiglin stopped at the compound’s doorway, further raising tensions.  

A recent surge in violence in the occupied West Bank has fed worries that a new Palestinian uprising was developing. Obama is due to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank at the end of the month. 


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