JERUSALEM: Fresh violence flared between Israelis and Palestinians yesterday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to install more security cameras at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in a bid to defuse tensions. In a spate of incidents in the occupied West Bank a Palestinian woman was shot dead while trying to knife Israeli border police and a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli man before fleeing, police said.
Meanwhile a Palestinian was seriously wounded after being shot several times by an Israeli settler while picking olives, according to Palestinian security sources. Knife attacks, shootings and protests have become near daily occurrences since October 1 in the latest surge of violence in the decades-old conflict, sparking a diplomatic scramble to avert what many fear heralds a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
The focal point of the latest unrest is the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, and Netanyahu on Saturday agreed on new measures to allay Palestinian fears that he plans to change longstanding rules governing the site. Netanyahu vowed Jews would continue to be allowed to visit but not pray at the compound and agreed that 24-hour surveillance cameras could be installed, adding these were in Israel’s interest.
“Firstly, to refute the claim Israel is violating the status quo. Secondly, to show where the provocations are really coming from, and prevent them in advance,” said Netanyahu. Currently cameras film the outside plaza of the compound, but not the inside of holy monuments on the site, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said on public radio.
He said having cameras inside will allow the Jordanian Waqf, which administers the site, “to control things better and not ignore that 30 youths entrenched themselves in the mosque overnight… with rocks, pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails.” During riots at the compound in September Palestinian protesters barricaded themselves in the mosque in a bid to disrupt morning visits by Jews to the site. The protesters were angry over an increase in Jewish visitors during the Jewish religious holidays, some of whom secretly pray there.
‘A game changer’
The Palestinian governor of Jerusalem Adnan Al-Hussein said the cameras were only of use to Israel. “They want to observe whoever comes in and out,” he said. “There will not be calm without political prospects to definitively end the occupation,” said Nabila Sheath, an official from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’ West Bank-based Fatah.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said after talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II that security cameras would be a “game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of the holy site.” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said Jordanian and Israeli technical teams were likely to meet soon “to discuss the implementation of this idea alongside other measures to maintain and enhance public order and calm.”
Ties between Israel and Jordan have often been strained by the site in east Jerusalem, a majority Palestinian area that was seized by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move never internationally recognized.
Netanyahu has accused Abbas of fanning the flames by claiming that Israel wants to change the status quo. Clashes at Al-Aqsa spiraled into a wave of violence that has seen knife and gun attacks against Israelis. Yesterday a Palestinian woman attempted to knife border police in the West Bank city of Hebron and was shot dead, police said, taking the number of Palestinians killed in attempted attacks and clashes to 53. An Israeli Arab attacker has also been killed.
“A Palestinian woman acting suspiciously approached border police forces. She was requested to identify herself when she suddenly drew a knife and approached the forces yelling. The forces shot at her and neutralised her,” a police statement said. Also in the West Bank yesterday an Israeli was stabbed and wounded by “two assailants disguised as ultra Orthodox (Jewish) men” who shot at them before they fled the scene, the army said.
Meanwhile Palestinian police sources said a 20-year-old man was in serious condition after being “shot by a settler while harvesting olives in Sair,” nearby where the Israeli was stabbed in the West Bank. The Palestinian health ministry said he had been shot five times. Since the start of this month, eight Israelis have died in attacks. One Israeli Jew and one Eritrean have been killed after being mistaken for attackers. The most recent attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict collapsed in April 2014 amid bitter recriminations on both sides. — AFP