Unrest continues for third day in East Jerusalem

Palestinian youths throw stones at  Israeli security forces, which tried to disperse them in East Jerusalem.
Israeli police on Tuesday arrested Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic movement in Israel, in the third consecutive day of unrest in East Jerusalem, police said.

Salah, an Israeli-Arab and former mayor of the Haifa District city of Umm el-Fahm, was arrested in Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem and was being questioned by police for incitement, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmulik ben Rubi said. Tuesday’s arrest came amid scattered clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police. In Ras El-Amoud in East Jerusalem, Palestinian youths threw stones at security forces who dispersed them. At Qalandia Crossing, youths threw stones at forces who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them. Also Tuesday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat accused Israel of provoking tensions in the area. “Israel is lighting matches in the hope of sparking a fire, deliberately escalating tensions in occupied East Jerusalem rather than taking steps to placate the situation,” Erakat said. “What makes this all the more dangerous is the vacuum created by the absence of a credible peace process that offers hope instead of more settlements.” “This is an extremely dangerous situation. Our greatest fear is that clashes will spread as Israel intensifies its repression, increases arrests and mobilizes the full force of its military against ordinary Palestinians,” Erakat said.

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There was no immediate Israeli response. On Sunday, some 150 Palestinians rioted at one of the city’s holiest sites, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif. The rioting occurred near the site after police closed the area to Muslim worshippers and visitors. Police said they did so to minimize the possibility of violence after calls were issued in Palestinian media to “come and protect the mount.” Police contained tensions at the site on Monday, when about 30,000 Jews arrived at the Western Wall — adjacent to the Temple Mount — for the traditional priestly blessing on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Palestinian official Sabri Saidam accused Israel of “stepping up its hostile confrontation to the Palestinian population” by systematically seeking “to alienate worshippers and the Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem and beyond by allowing Jewish worshippers to visit Al Aqsa mosque.” That mosque is part of Haram Al-Sharif, which means “the noble sanctuary.” “Such attitudes may ignite the situation on the ground and are widely seen by Palestinians as an attempt on the Israeli government side to divert attention from the pressing need to end its occupation of Palestinian land and thus reduce international pressure on its different political domain,” he said. Police re-opened the Temple Mount on Monday and Tuesday for Muslim males 50 or older and to Muslim females of any age, but it was closed to tourists. In 1996, dozens of people were killed in rioting related to the Al Aqsa mosque.