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Jerusalem police chief Major-General Ilan Franco banned Jewish visitors from the Temple Mount compound on Tisha B'Av yesterday, over fear of sparking violent clashes on the premises. Police turned back some 30 Jewish zealots who tried to enter.

The decision was made yesterday morning in the wake of recent warnings by Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, that the security establishment had identified rising intent among right-wing extremists to carry out a Temple Mount attack.

The Temple Mount Faithful movement, which wanted to hold a mourning ceremony on the site, had to settle for a symbolic gathering near the Mugrabi Gate at the entrance to the compound.

"This is a total retreat from our sovereignty over the Temple Mount," said the group's leader, Gershon Solomon. "It's another dishonor to the Jewish nation by a weak leadership that doesn't understand the significance of the hour."

About 15 right-wing activists demonstrated at noon in front of Hanegbi's house to protest the decision.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Jews came to the Western Wall throughout the day to mark Tisha B'Av, the fast day commemorating the destruction of the two temples. At the same time, hundreds of Muslims - mostly Arab residents from the Triangle region and Galilee - came to pray at mosques on the Temple Mount. Their appearance was in response to an appeal by Sheikh Kamal Hatib, deputy leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement.