Atul Aneja

DUBAI: Amid growing tensions, Israelis have begun repairing a walkway near Jerusalem's holiest site. The walkway leads to the Al-Aqsa Mosque or the Temple Mount compound in East Jerusalem.

For restoring the pathway, the Israelis plan to level a mound that Islamic scholars say is sacred. According to the Islamic authorities in charge of the compound, there are two underground rooms, which lie beneath the mound.

The controversy has raised tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians in the area. A senior cleric has called upon Palestinians to head for the compound and protest against the work.

On Sunday, Jordan's King Abdullah issued a warning against "any attack on Islamic sites." He condemned Israeli attempts "to change the nature of these sites and erase their Muslim character." In 1996, 80 persons had died in clashes, which began after work was started to open a tunnel alongside the compound.

Xinhua reports:

The place is revered by Jews as the site of their Second Temple that was destroyed by the Roman general Titus Flavius in 70 A.D after a Jewish revolt against Roman rule. Muslims claim that Prophet Muhammad was taken up to heaven from the spot and thus the site is holy to them.

The Israel Antiquities Authority says that the work is intended to strengthen an access ramp to Dung Gate, which was damaged during a snow storm two years ago.

Speaking to reporters before leaving the Gaza Strip for crisis talks in Saudi Arabia, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, whose Islamist-led Government is boycotted by the West, called on ``all the sons of the Palestinian people to unite and rise up en masse to protect the Al-Aqsa mosque''.