The Fatah-affiliated Aksa Martyrs Brigades threatened on Wednesday to attack synagogues if Israel continued its excavation near the Temple Mount ahead of the planned construction of a new bridge to the Mughrabi Gate. In a press release sent to newspapers, the group announced that all synagogues would become legitimate targets and that "the sanctity of the Al Aksa Mosque should not be less than that of the synagogues." The terror organization joined scores of other Islamic organizations in calling on the Palestinian people to hold processions and angry protests until the construction is stopped.
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A Jerusalem court on Wednesday ordered the fiery leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel to stay out of the Old City of Jerusalem for the next 10 days after he tried to force his way to the site of a contested archeological excavation outside the Temple Mount, police said.
Sheikh Raed Salah was one of seven Israeli Arabs detained by police near the Dung Gate on Wednesday morning.
Salah said Wednesday evening that he was intending to come to Temple Mount on Thursday, a move that would effectively breaking the court order.
Salah and his supporters had scuffled with police guarding the workers carrying out the salvage excavation near the Temple Mount.
The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ordered Salah and three of his associates to stay 150 meters outside the walled Old City for the next 10 days, Jerusalem police spokeswoman Sigal Toledo said.
In court, Salah accused Israel of "the crime of demolishing a part of the blessed Al Aksa compound" and of "pushing the whole region to religious war." The archeological excavation under way ahead of the planned construction of a new bridge to the Mughrabi Gate is taking place dozens of meters outside the Temple Mount compound.
Salah, who heads the extremist northern branch of the Islamic Movement, which denies Israel's legitimacy, had called on Tuesday for an intifada over the archeological dig by the Jerusalem holy site.
Salah has served a two-year sentence for a series of security offenses, including financing Hamas activities.
For the second straight day, police - in a largely successful effort to ward off violence at the compound - barred non-Muslims from entering the Temple Mount on Wednesday and limited Muslim entry to the holy site to men over 45 with Israeli identity cards.
In sporadic stone-throwing incidents in east Jerusalem, seven Arab teens were arrested by police.
Police, who are bracing for renewed violence following Muslim prayers on Friday, are expected to extend restrictions at the compound.
Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Wednesday urged Islamic nations to retaliate against Israel.
Khamenei did not say what sort of response he intended, but he said the Islamic world should make Israel "regret" what it is doing, The Associated Press reported.
The eight-month construction project is meant to replace a decades-old stone ramp that partially collapsed in a snowstorm three years ago.
The Temple Mount, which is Judaism's holiest and Islam's third holiest site, has been the scene of violence in the past, which later spilled out across the country.
Israel's opening of the Western Wall tunnels in 1996 sparked a wave of Palestinian violence that killed 80 people, while former prime minister Ariel Sharon's 2000 visit to the Temple Mount sparked rioting among Israeli Arabs and Palestinian violence.
Israeli efforts to downplay the dig fell on deaf ears amongst the Arab public, with Arab media playing up the heated rhetoric of Islamic officials blasting the work.
In a sign of continued tension, the Islamic Movement announced that it planned a demonstration Friday against the dig.
There have never been any archeological excavations on the Temple Mount itself due to religious sensitivities.
According to decades-old regulations in place at the site, Israel maintains overall security control, while the Wakf, or Islamic Trust, is charged with day-to-day administration of the ancient compound.
The latest controversy comes as an ancient wooden pulpit destroyed in the Aksa Mosque four decades ago by a deranged Australian tourist hoping to hasten the coming of the Messiah was restored with Israel's blessing and as Jordan presses ahead with plans to build a fifth minaret at the site.
Last decade, Wakf officials built the largest mosque in Israel in an underground architectural support of the Temple Mount known as the Solomon's Stables, throwing dozens of truckloads of antiquities mixed with rubble in a garbage dump outside the Old City.
The construction of the mosque, which was carried out without any archeological supervision, was later called an "unprecedented archeological crime" by Israel's top archeological body for its massive destruction of antiquities at the site.