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Protesters surround Laura Bush

First lady whisked away as emotions grow tense


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Laura Bush visits Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock amid protests Sunday.
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Chaotic scene as Laura Bush is met by protesters in Jerusalem.
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- First lady Laura Bush, on a political fence-mending tour of the Middle East, found herself the target of a tense protest in Jerusalem at one of Islam's holiest sites.

After a brief tour of the Dome of the Rock mosque, about 40 or 50 protesters surrounded Bush and her U.S. Secret Service detail as they departed, pushing to get closer and shouting: "How dare you come here" and "You don't belong in this mosque."

Security closed in tightly around the first lady as the angry Muslim protesters -- many expressing fury at the United States -- came very close to Bush.

As Secret Service agents shadowed her, Israeli security guards linked arms and forced a pathway for the first lady's entourage through the crowd to Bush's motorcade.

At one point, a boy made his way up to the first lady, and one guard momentarily pointed his gun at the boy, who ran away.

During a visit to the Church of the Resurrection on Monday, Bush said she was not surprised by the protesters.

"The protests were very expected. If you didn't expect them, you didn't know what it would be like when you got here," Bush said.

"Everyone knows how the tensions are and ... I was very, very welcomed by most people."

Videotape of the incident shows Bush appearing unperturbed by her surroundings and chatting amiably with officials as they move away from the mosque.

Once down off the hill, Secret Service agents whisked the first lady into her limousine, which departed for her next stop.

The site she visited on Sunday is Islam's third-holiest, and is built on a hill in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif -- or the Noble Sanctuary.

The hill also is believed to contain the ruins of Judaism's holiest temple.

Not far from the mosque, protesters forced Bush into another tight squeeze earlier Sunday at Judaism's holy Western Wall.

While the first lady passed through a narrow walkway set up for her to reach the wall, dozens of protesters pushed against Bush's guards.

The demonstrators demanded the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American imprisoned for passing security information to Israel. (Related story)

Secret Service spokesman Jonathan Cherry said in a statement there was "nothing out of the ordinary regarding the first lady's trip overseas."

Speaking to reporters later in Jericho, Bush said, "As you can tell from our day here, this is a place of emotion, everywhere we went, from the Western Wall to the Dome of the Rock to here.

"This is such a crucial point in our world and has been for forever, really," she said. "We're reminded again of what we all want, what every one of us prays for."

She said the Israeli and Palestinian women she met with Sunday wanted peace, and that both sides must come to the table.

"The chance that we have right now to have peace, to have a Palestinian state living by a secure and safe Israel, both living in democracy, is as close as we've been in a really long time," she said.

She continued, "The United States will do what it can in this process."

Bush said that as a Christian it was "very emotional and very moving to be here to see these sites."

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.


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