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Palestinians Clash with Israeli Police
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Clashes erupted Friday at several checkpoints outside Jerusalem as Palestinians protested against an Israeli restriction on their entry to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the city for Friday prayers.

A Xinhua correspondent saw that Israeli police used tear gas and batons to disperse the protestors, who hurled stones at the officers, at one of checkpoints near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem.

No casualty was reported in the clash.

Meanwhile, many Muslims gathered at the compound for prayers around noon Friday during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israeli security forces are not allowing Palestinian men under 40 to participate in Friday prayers in the compound, fearing disturbances.

The restriction has been in place since Ramadan began three weeks ago. Israeli police have also bolstered their presence in the Old City of Jerusalem over the past three weeks.

The compound, Islam's third holiest site, is also known as the Temple Mount, the most sacred site of Judaism.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that it launched an air raid on a vehicle driven by Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) militants in northern Gaza on Thursday evening, daily newspaper Ha'aretz reported.

The IDF was quoted as claiming they targeted the Hamas vehicle as the militants were involved in a Qassam rocket attack on southern Israeli town of Sderot Thursday evening.

According to the report, an Israel Air Force aircraft struck a car in the northern Gaza Strip early Friday, killing a local Hamas commander and two other Hamas operatives.

A Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in Sderot on Thursday night, causing no injuries but damaged the city's electricity grid, and put part of the town into darkness.
The IDF has stepped up its offensive in Gaza in recent days, in response to Palestinian militants' renewal of Qassam rocket attacks at Israel after several days of calm.

(Xinhua News Agency October 14, 2006 )

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