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Originally published Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 4:26 AM

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Israeli police deploy around tense holy site

Israel deployed thousands of policemen in and around Jerusalem's Old City on Monday to prevent a new round of disturbances around a tense site holy to Jews and Muslims.

Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM —

Israel deployed thousands of policemen in and around Jerusalem's Old City on Monday to prevent a new round of disturbances around a tense site holy to Jews and Muslims.

Police have been clashing sporadically for several days with Muslim protesters in and around the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. No one has been seriously injured, but in the past deadly violence has erupted at the site.

Thousands of Jewish worshippers gathered at the foot of the compound to pray at the supporting wall known as the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray. Monday's prayers marked the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Tourists and men in white prayer shawls packed the plaza opposite the wall, as police officers patrolled and kept watch nearby.

Police restricted the entrance of Muslim worshippers to the compound, saying calls by Israeli Arab leaders for protests could spark violence. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that only men over the age of 50 were being allowed to pray at the compound. There were no restrictions on women.

In the only incident of the day, a small group of Palestinians threw stones at a group of Jewish worshippers outside the Old City, but no one was hurt, Rosenfeld said.

The recent clashes appear linked to rumors among Palestinians that Jewish extremists plan to enter or damage the compound, home to the Al-Aqsa mosque and the gold-capped Dome of the Rock and sanctified by Muslims as their third-holiest site. Similar rumors in the past have led to riots.

Light disturbances broke out a week ago when a group of Muslim worshippers, drawn to the site by a cleric's warning that Jewish settlers were planning to enter the compound, threw stones at a group of visitors escorted by police. Police said the visitors were French tourists.

Rioters and policemen were lightly wounded in the clash.

In neighboring Jordan, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh summoned the Israeli ambassador and protested what the Jordanian government called "Israel's continuous violations of the sanctity of Muslim and Christian holy sites in east Jerusalem," according to the country's official Petra news agency.

Jews venerate the site as the location of two biblical temples. Israel has controlled it since 1967, but day-to-day administration is in the hands of Muslim clerics.

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Jerusalem correspondent Michael Barajas contributed to this report.

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