Israeli police ban press conference new holy site in Jerusalem

Israeli police on Wednesday banned a press conference by Muslim and Christian opponents to Israeli excavation work near a disputed Jerusalem holy site.

Police went to the Commodore Hotel in east Jerusalem and delivered an order canceling the event because it was organized by the Palestinian Hamas militant group, whose activities are prohibited in Israel, police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.

The mufti of Jerusalem, the leader of Israel's Islamic Movement and a Roman Orthodox archbishop in the city were to speak at the hotel against the renovation of a ramp leading to the shrine in Jerusalem's Old City known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The leader of the Islamic Movement, Raed Salah, has organized protests at the site and police, after arresting him, banned him from the area for more than two months, the AP reports.

The work, which began with an archaeological dig earlier this month, has sparked protests by Muslims throughout the Arab world.

The site - home to the Al Aqsa mosque and the gold-capped Dome of the Rock - is Islam's third-holiest shrine, and the dig has inflamed Muslim fears that Israel is planning to damage it.

Israel says the dig is meant to salvage archaeological finds ahead of the construction of a new pedestrian walkway up to the hilltop compound, to replace one damaged in a 2004 snowstorm. Israeli archaeologists insist there is no danger to the compound.

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