Fears of more violence over Jerusalem holy site

JERUSALEM: Stabbings and clashes that left six people dead raised fears on Saturday of further Israeli-Palestinian violence as tensions mount over new security measures at a highly sensitive Jerusalem holy site.
Amid mounting pressure to respond to the dispute over the mosque compound, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas announced late on Friday he was freezing contacts with Israel.
There was no immediate public reaction from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday denounced as “excessive” the use of force by Israeli security forces in deadly clashes over the holy site.
“I condemn Israel’s insistence on its position despite all warnings… and the excessive use of force by Israeli forces against our brothers gathered for Friday prayers,” he said in a statement.
Erdogan said that he was speaking in his capacity as the current chairman of the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) whose chairmanship Turkey currently holds.
Friday’s violence — a stabbing attack that killed three Israelis and clashes which left three Palestinians dead — was among the most severe in recent years.
There were concerns over whether it would spark wider unrest as Israeli officials grappled with how to ease tensions over the Haram al Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
The site in Jerusalem’s Old City that includes the revered Al Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock has been a rallying cry for Palestinians.
Friday’s main weekly Muslim prayers — which typically draw thousands to Al Aqsa — brought the situation to a boil.
In anticipation of protests, Israel barred men under 50 from entering the Old City for prayers, stoking further Palestinian anger.
Three Palestinians between the ages of 17 and 20 were shot dead. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 450 people wounded in Jerusalem and the West Bank, including 170 from live or rubber bullets.
In the evening, a Palestinian broke into a home in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank during a Sabbath dinner and stabbed four Israelis, killing three of them.
The 19-year-old Palestinian was shot by a neighbour, an off-duty soldier, and was taken to hospital.
Israeli soldiers raided the Palestinian’s nearby village of Kobar overnight and arrested his brother, an army spokeswoman said.
Preparations were also being made to demolish the attacker’s home,
a measure Israel regularly employs because it views it as a deterrent, although human rights groups
say it amounts to collective punishment.  — AFP