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MKs allege Jewish pogrom as hundreds shout 'death to Arabs' at Acre riots, extremist gangs attack Al-Aqsa Mosque

Oct. 9, 2008 7:05 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 9, 2008 7:05 P.M.)
Jerusalem - Ma'an - An Islamic charity is outraged that a "massive" group of Israeli settlers, rabbis and politicians attempted to break into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem early Thursday morning.

The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Islamic Waqf and Heritage claimed that Israeli extremists "carried out several failed attempts to break into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound" on Thursday.

Extremists shouted anti-Muslim slogans while others performed religious rituals in the mosque's outside yard. Israeli police looked on, reportedly refusing to act.

The crowd of Israelis apparently began the rally by breaking through the Old City's Mughrabi Gate before attempting to enter the mosque, foundation officials claimed. During the intrusion, members of the Islamic charity attempted to stem the flow of rioters by closing gates surrounding the area.

Witnesses told members of the Palestinian press that rioters numbered "at least 100" and that among them was a member of the Israeli Knesset.

The foundation called on Palestinians in Jerusalem-as well as those living in Israel-to immediately race to the Old City in order to protect the mosque from more attempts expected throughout the night.

Extremist groups have tried for several years to break into the mosque during the Yom Kippur holy day, which began Wednesday evening.

The head of the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s Waqf Department denounced the incident in a statement on Thursday. Sheikh Mohammad Azzam At-Tamimi implored the Israeli public to respect Al-Aqsa as an "Islamic holy site."

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is located on top of the Haram al-Sharif, or "Noble Sanctuary," and is considered holy to Muslims. Israeli border security forces and Jerusalem police are tasked with maintaining security in the area, which includes protection from Jewish extremists.

Meanwhile, riots erupted in the Israeli town of Acre after Jewish youths beat a Palestinian resident just after midnight on Thursday.

Young Israelis reportedly assaulted the Palestinian man after he drove into a predominantly Jewish section of the city. Following the assault, other Palestinian youths arrived at the scene, touching off additional riots involving both Arabs and Jews.

The man was reportedly driving home moments before the attack that led two members of the Israeli Knesset to lash out at police on Thursday.

Member of Knesset (MK) Ahmad Tibi accused police of "hapless discrimination" for failing to protect Arab residents of Acre on Thursday. According to Hebrew newspaper Yediot Ahronot, Tibi also called the riot "a pogrom perpetrated by Jewish thugs against Arabs."

Dozens of cars and shops were damaged in the chaos, during which an Israeli newspaper said hundreds of protesters shouted "death to Arabs" and other derogatory slogans in mass rallies.

MK Muhammad Barakeh compared the events to the treatment of Jews during World War II, Ha'aretz reported. Barakeh told reporters that the riots on Thursday compared to what "Jews were exposed to at the hands of the Nazi gangs in Germany."

But police did arrest a number of suspected rioters, saying they plan to detain more. Acre's police chief cited the involvement of "Jewish and Arab gangs" in the riots that started in the eastern part of the city.

On Wednesday, Israeli security officials went on high alert as the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur began, sources said. But the cause of concern was supposedly specific warnings in regards to attacks by Palestinian Muslims and Christians, not Israeli Jews.

Security officials had reported receiving specific warnings about Palestinians intending to kidnap Israelis and launch grenade attacks, in addition to dozens of other warnings threatening Israel, in general, during the Jewish holy day.

Wednesday's reports over expected violence did not mention any preparations for attacks by Jews on Yom Kippur, or if they anticipated them.

But Israeli officers barricaded roads in the West Bank and erected blocks of concrete at entrances to the city on Wednesday, purportedly to prevent the movement of Palestinian vehicles.

Thursday's violence against Muslims throughout the country seemed to catch Israeli police by surprise, though Palestinian officials insisted that such attacks occur annually. And Al-Aqsa leaders claimed Israeli soldiers could have stopped extremist attacks in East Jerusalem, but declined to intervene.

***Updated 00:15 Bethlehem time
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