On Thursday, Israeli bulldozers continued digging near the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. In the streets, thousands of Palestinians continued their protest against the digging, and the Israeli police is anticipating massive protests following Friday prayers at the mosque.The Israeli army and police increased their force presence in the area of the mosque and in several areas leading to the Old City of Jerusalem, and barred residents under the age of 40 from entering Jerusalem.

Anticipating massive protests after Friday prayers, the Israeli Police started deploying thousands of policemen in the Mosque area and in the Old City, especially since the sheikhs of mosques in Jerusalem and elsewhere called for massive protests on Friday against the digging near the Holy Site.

At least 2000 Israeli policemen were deployed in the Old City of Jerusalem, especially around the mosque.

The digging also caused a dispute between the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, who traded accusations.

Peretz said that the digging harms the image of Israel and could lead to a sharp deterioration of the conditions in the area.

On Wednesday, Peretz sent a letter to Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert regarding the issue. The letter also included the opinion of Amos Gilad, who heads the political-security team at the ministry of defense.

Gilad believes that the digging will cause huge harm to Israel, and will endanger any truce offer with the Palestinians. Also, Gilad stated that Olmert should not forget that he will be meeting with the Palestinian president in two weeks, in addition to the planned visit to the region by the U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

Moreover, Gilad warned that the digging could also cause huge protests against Israel in Arab and Muslim countries.

Olmert’s office accused Peretz of exposing the letter to the media before it reached Olmert.