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1,000 hardline Israelis 'storm' flashpoint holy site

1,000 HARDLINE ISRAELIS STORM FLASHPOINT HOLY SITE

More than 1,000 hardline Israeli activists, guarded by police, controversially toured a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site on Tuesday, which had been the focal point of recent tensions in the city, its management said.

Altogether 1,089 "extremists stormed" the site, according to Firas Dibs, spokesperson for the Waqf, the religious authority in charge of the Al-Aqsa mosque.

An increased number of activists visited on Tuesday as Jews marked the historical destruction of their holiest temple, which they say lies under the present-day mosque.

While visits to the site are prohibited in mainstream Judaism, the growing Temple Mount movement advocates for a greater Jewish presence.

According to The Jerusalem Post newspaper citing figures released Monday, there has been a 15 percent increase in the number of Jewish visitors to the site in the past year.

The Waqf objects to all non-Muslim visits for religious purposes, especially since Israeli authorities unilaterally resumed visits, which were suspended during the Second Intifada, which sparked in 2000.

For almost two weeks, Palestinian Muslims refused to enter the mosque in protest against security measures introduced at the site in response to an attack on July 14, which killed two Israeli police officers and three Palestinians.

During that period, Temple Mount activists called on greater numbers to visit in the absence of Waqf guards. Some right-wing Israeli groups have also complained about the government giving in to Palestinian demands by removing the measures.

Palestinians claimed the changes altered the "status quo" - a delicate balance of prayer and visiting rights.

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