Israel - Palestine

Palestinians clash with police, Mitchell puts off visit

Palestinians throw stones at police at the Atara crossing, north of Ramallah
Palestinians throw stones at police at the Atara crossing, north of Ramallah Reuters

Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli police Tuesday amid tension over Jewish expansion in mainly Arab east Jerusalem . US envoy George Mitchell has postponed a visit to the region amid the row over the announcement of settler expansion during Vice-President Joe Biden's visit.

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Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at demonstrators in the Shuafat refugee camp, while some of protesters threw stones at them. The Palestinians dispersed after security forces moved in.

There were clashes in other parts of east Jerusalem. Police say they have made 15 arrests and that two officers have been injured.

Palestinian leaders condemned the reopening of a synagogue within the Old City, near Islam's third holiest site, Al-Aqsa mosque. The synagogue has been destroyed twice, the second time during fighting with Jordan 62 years ago.

Another synagogue in the Old City is now due to be renovated, while restrictions on Palestinians visiting the mosque remain in place.

Palestinians believe that the move will upset the tense status quo, already under strain after the announcement of plans to build thousands of settler homes

Dossier: Gaza 2009

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has declared a "day of rage and alarm" and called for Arabs and Muslims to "come to the aid of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa".

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas's Fatah, which controls the West Bank, also condemned the move.

"This is no mere synagogue," said Hatem Abdel Qader, who is in charge of Jerusalem affairs for Fatah, saying that it will be "a prelude to violence and religious fanatacism and extremism" which would also involve members of the Israeli government.

The US accused Palestinian leaders of "mischaracterising the event in question" and adding to the tension.

US Middle Easy envoy George Mitchell postponed a visit to Israel which was due to start Monday.

Officials blamed "logisitics" but the decision comes as relations with Israel hit a low point over announcement of settlement expansion during a visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden.

Biden is expected to make the trip after a meeting of the Middle East Quartet in Moscow on 19 March.

 

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