Fadi Eyadat, Jack Khoury, Liel Kyzer
March 16, 2010 - 12:00am

Police Commissioner David Cohen on Tuesday toured Jerusalem's Old City after clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, and said he did not believe the recent violence would spark a third intifada.

Dozens of Palestinians clashed with Israeli police in East Jerusalem after Hamas declared a "day of rage" to protest Israel's consecration of an ancient synagogue in the city one day earlier.

Palestinians hurled stones at police and burned tires and trash bins in several areas of East Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the West Bank during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Police responded with tear gas and fired rubber bullets, witnesses said. Some 40 Palestinians were treated at East Jerusalem hospitals for minor injuries, medical officials said.

Thirty-one people were arrested as dozens of youths hurled stones at Border Police officers in the Shoafat refugee camp and in the neighborhoods of Isawiyah, Abu Dis and Wadi Joz.

"We are seeing signs of disorderly conduct," said Cohen, "but that is only a headline. We must be careful about characterizations and remarks being made."

The police chief went on to say the recent violence does not point to signs of a third intifada.

He also stressed that the city has a unique character that must be preserved - and that peace must be maintained in both the Arab and Jewish quarters.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said police fired stun grenades to disperse dozens of protesters at one site. He said village elders helped end protests at another site.

Police also arrested an Israeli rightist who sought to enter the Temple Mount compound and was refused by security forces.

A police spokesman said some 3,000 officers were put on high alert after Hamas, an Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip and wields influence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, called for anti-Israel protests.

"We call on the Palestinian people to regard Tuesday as a day of rage against the occupation's [Israel's] procedures in Jerusalem against al-Aqsa mosque," Hamas said in a statement.

Hamas and Palestinian officials affiliated with its rival Fatah movement have said the restoration work at the ancient Hurva synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's walled Old City endangered al-Aqsa, situated some 400 meters away.

Israel has denied the accusation but Arab MKs warned on Tuesday that Israeli policy could lead to a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

"The policies of the Netanyahu government are nothing less than ethnic cleansing and are a the strongest possible incitement to a third intifada," said Hanin Zuabi, an Arab Knesset member.

"It seems the submissiveness of the official Palestinian and Arab response has given Israel the false impression that Palestinians will not fight for their liberty and their rights."

Another MK, Jamal Zahalka, said: "Anyone who builds settlements in Jerusalem is digging a grave for peace," while Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat likened Israel's handling of the situation to "pouring oil on fire".

An inauguration ceremony was held on Monday at the synagogue, which was blown up by Jordanian forces when they overran the Jewish Quarter in the 1948 Middle East war.

Sporadic violence has erupted in recent weeks in Jerusalem after Israel decided to include West Bank religious sites in a Jewish national heritage plan stoked Palestinian anger.

Limitations on access to Muslim prayers on Temple Mount will continue for the fifth day. Members of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee are set to hold a procession in the east of the city on Wednesday.

Galilee police set up roadblocks around Safed and Acre on Tuesday to prevent Israeli Arabs from northern towns and villages from traveling to Jerusalem to take part in the protests.

Gaza protests

Thousands of Palestinians, meanwhile, staged a protest march in the Gaza Strip to protest Israeli measures in Jerusalem.

Ahmed Bahar, a senior figure in Hamas, called for an escalation of armed attacks against Israel and urged Arab states "to shoulder their responsibilities and send their warplanes and armies to rescue the al-Aqsa Mosque and end the Jewish policy of Judaizing Jerusalem."


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017