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UN to discuss Al-Aqsa clashes

The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem Al-Quds as a UN Gaza war report awaits a debate.

The session, demanded by the Palestinian Authority, is to discuss a report by independent fact-finding mission on Israel’s military action against the Hamas-run the Gaza Strip in December and January, Palestinian diplomats said on Tuesday.

A UN statement, however, said that the 47-member council would hold a special session on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and East Jerusalem Al-Quds on Thursday.

The decision follows two weeks of mounting tensions triggered by Israeli restrictions imposed on Palestinian worshippers to access the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holy site in the Muslim world.

Israel has deployed thousands of troops in the area to quell demonstrations by Palestinians protesters who were denied admission into the mosque compound while Jewish worshippers were allowed to hold a religious ceremony in the site.

The closure of the holy compound caused fierce clashes in the city between the Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, who accuse Tel Aviv of trying to remove the Islamic-Palestinian identity of the site, which is also holy to Christians and Jews.

Jordan, which reserves the right to look after all Islamic and Christian holy sites in East Jerusalem Al-Quds under a 1994 peace treaty, demanded Israel last week to keep Jewish extremists away from the compound and keep the Mugrabi Gate closed.

Israel seized East Jerusalem Al-Quds during the six-day war in 1967 and later annexed it despite opposition from the international community, who continue to consider the territory as occupied.

Earlier this month, the Human Rights Council debated the damning report on the Gaza war but decided to delay a vote on it until March 2010 under pressure from the US and Israel’s European allies.

The head of the UN fact-finding mission, Richard Goldstone, recommended in August that the UN Security Council take up the report’s findings and ask the International Criminal Court to examine possible charges, unless progress was made in investigations in Israel and the Palestinian territories within six months.

The report sparked furor among Tel Aviv officials for highlighting the Israeli army’s violation of international laws during the 23-day offensive which left more than 1,400 Palestinians killed.

The Goldstone report is expected to be raised during a UN Security Council debate on the Middle East scheduled for Wednesday in New York.

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