Jordanian team begins repairs on disputed holy site

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

JERUSALEM -- Jordan has stepped into a squabble between Israel and the Palestinians at Jerusalem's most disputed holy site, and will repair a bulging wall in danger of collapse, officials said Tuesday.

Repair of the southern retaining wall of the Haram as-Sharif mosque compound, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, had stalled amid wrangling over who should supervise the work. The mosques are built on the ruins of biblical Jewish Temples, and the site is sacred to both religions.

A 35-foot-wide bulge in the wall had raised concerns the structure could collapse, possibly on the heads of Muslim worshippers in a converted underground mosque inside the compound.

Each side has blamed the other for the wall's deterioration. A collapse could cause a regional conflagration.

A Sept. 28, 2000, visit by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then an opposition leader, to the compound sparked riots that expanded throughout the region. During the two years of bloodshed that has followed, the Islamic Trust, which runs the site, has banned all non-Muslims from the site.

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