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Jerusalem's grand mufti: Israel wrong to block Al-Aqsa Mosque

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That explanation doesn't fly, Hussein says, and anger over the policy is only growing.

"Even if it were only one day when they did this, we would find it offensive and problematic. It blocks our freedom of worship," says Sheikh Hussein, a slight-framed, serious-minded man who sits in a well-appointed office beneath the portrait of the man who appointed him – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – and another of the late Yasser Arafat.

"There are military checkpoints surrounding the mosque on all sides, and they inspect anyone who tries to enter," says Hussein, himself included.

It is difficult to predict how worrisome that anger might be and what it means in the short term. Tomorrow's Friday midday prayers, the biggest of the Muslim week, are feared to be the site of clashes with Israeli police who maintain overall control of the area. Israeli police are on their second-highest level of alert. Not a day of the past week has passed without clashes somewhere in Jerusalem.

Earlier this week in Cairo, Qatari Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the International Association of Muslim Scholars, called on Muslims to observe a "day of rage'" Friday in support of the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hussein says he hopes that won't be read as a call to violence, but of steadfastness.

"We don't want conflict," he says, "but the feeling on the ground is indicating an escalation, if the Israelis don't change their approach."

Tensions high since Yom Kippur

Tensions near the city's holy sites and in East Jerusalem neighborhoods have been high since Sept. 27, the eve of Yom Kippur – the holiest day in the Jewish calendar – when young Palestinian men clashed with Israeli police near the holy sites.

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