Israel minister visit to Jerusalem flashpoint condemned

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Jerusalem - Israeli PublicSecurityMinister Yitzhak Aharonovitch visited the flashpoint Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem\'s old city Tuesday, setting off a storm of protest among Muslims, who called the tour a \'provocation.\'

Sheikh Azzam Khatib, the director of the Jerusalem Waqf authority, which administers the compound, said the visit was carried out without coordination with his office.

Arab-Israeli legislator Taleb a-Sanaa said the two-hour visit was \'a dangerous, pathetic provocation\' whose purpose was to \'inflame the area.\'

A spokesman for Aharonvitch was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying that the tour was \'completely professional\' and there was \'no special reason for the timing, nothing unusual.\'

Aharonovitch, a member of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael B\'teinu party and whose ministerial responsibilities include policing, was accompanied on his visit by Police CommissionerDavidCohenand Jerusalem Police Chief Aharon Franco.

A visit to the compound in September 2000 by then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon is generally credited as having sparked the Second Palestinian Intifada (uprising) which broke out hours after his visit.

The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound is one of the most sensitive focal points of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is built on the site of the biblical Jewish Temple, and also marks the spot, Muslims believe, from where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.