Palestinians warn Israel after Jerusalem clash

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian leaders warned  Israel on Sunday not to stoke tension in Jerusalem in the hope  of thwarting peace talks, after clashes at a sacred site in  which Palestinians and Israeli police were injured.

“At a time when (US) President (Barack) Obama is trying to  bridge the divide between Palestinians and Israelis, and to get  negotiations back on track, Israel is deliberately escalating  tensions in Jerusalem,” chief peace negotiator Saeb Erakat said.
“We’ve seen this before, and we know what the consequences  are,” the Palestinian minister added, in a statement that  recalled the visit of then Israeli opposition leader Ariel  Sharon to the site in Jerusalem’s Old City in 2000.

Sharon’s presence at al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site  in Islam, triggered the second Palestinian uprising and dealt  the biggest setback to peace efforts in years.
The reasons behind Sunday’s clash were disputed.

According to legislator Hathem Abdel Kader and other  Palestinian sources, the clash erupted in the early morning when  Palestinians inside the complex — sacred to both Islam and  Judaism — saw a group of 15 religious Jews trying to enter. The Jews never managed to get into the complex, because  several hundred Palestinians, who were on alert for such a  possibility, began a loud protest. Israeli police responded with  tear gas then stun grenades.

Tourist presence disputed
The clash occurred hours before the start of Yom Kippur, the  solemn “Day of Atonement” which is the holiest day in the Jewish  calendar. Police were on alert for violent protests in several  flashpoints where Jews and Arabs live side by side.

Protesters threw stones, chairs and whatever they could lay  hands on as riot police rushed to the scene. Video showed them  trying to drive police away from the doorway of the al-Aqsa  mosque, but there was no sign that police entered it.

Police said 17 officers were hurt and 11 rioters arrested,  and medics said 13 Palestinians were treated for injuries. There  were no reports of serious injury or death.
Israeli police said it began when religious Palestinians  angered by immodestly dressed tourists grew violent.

Palestinians dismissed that account, saying no tourists were  involved. There was no further comment from Israeli authorities,  who were observing the Yom Kippur silence.
“Providing a police escort for settlers who are against  peace at all costs, and whose presence is deliberately designed  to provoke a reaction, are not the actions of someone who is  committed to peace, but of someone who will go to extraordinary  lengths to scuttle all hopes of peace,” Erakat said.

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