Clashes in east Jerusalem; Israel buries its stabbing dead

Israeli police clash with Palestinians stone-throwers in east Jerusalem as Israel bury its dead following stabbing attacks, praised by Hamas.

JERUSALEM (OCTOBER 4, 2015) (REUTERS) – Israeli police clashed with Palestinian stone-throwers in east Jerusalem on Sunday (October 4) hours after two stabbing attacks in which two Israelis were killed and three wounded.

Tensions have been on the rise after a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli teenager in Jerusalem on Sunday just hours after a similar assault killed two Israelis in its walled Old City on Saturday night (October 3).

Both assailants were shot dead by police. The early Sunday attack was carried out by a Palestinian man from Issawiya. Clashes broke out in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood when Israeli police fired teargas to disperse hundreds of Palestinian youths who threw bricks and stones at the forces. No injuries or arrests were reported.

The victims of Saturday’s attack, 41-year-old rabbi Nehemia Lavi and 21-year-old soldier Aharon Bennett were laid to rest in funeral services attended by thousands of mourners in a Jerusalem cemetery.

Elsewhere in West Jerusalem, a couple of dozen peace activists staged a protest in front of Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, calling on the Israeli prime minister to resume talks with the Palestinians to ease tension. The protesters chanted slogans and held up pro-Palestinian banners.

“No action is been taken by the government to protect the people of Jerusalem, which would be based on much harder and harsher security measures on the one hand, and on the other hand, to reach an agreement between us and the Palestinian people,” said former member of Knesset, Nachman Shai.

In an initial response to the attacks, Israel barred Palestinians from entering the Old City for two days – a ban that excluded Arabs who reside behind its ramparts.

Netanyahu planned to convene security chiefs later in the day to discuss further action to stem a rising wave of violence in recent weeks in East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, and the West Bank, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war.

In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a spokesperson for the Islamist movement praised the attacks.

“Hamas movement praises the heroic operations in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, and considers them as a natural reaction to the crimes of the occupation in al-Aqsa mosque and to the crimes of the settlers in the occupied West Bank. The movement (Hamas) holds the Israeli occupation as the only reason for this escalation,” Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades described Saturday’s fatal Old City stabbing as a “heroic attack” in response to “continued Zionist aggression” at Islamic holy sites.

Palestinians have said they fear increasing visits by Jewish groups to al-Aqsa compound, revered by Jews as the site of Biblical temples, are eroding Muslim religious control there.

Israel has pledged to maintain Muslim prayer rights at al-Aqsa, but, citing security concerns, has frequently banned young Muslim men from entering the area.

Though not at the level of previous Palestinian uprisings, or “Intifadas”, the bloodshed – which included a drive-by shooting in the West Bank that killed an Israeli couple on Thursday (October 1) – has triggered concerns of wider escalation, especially in the absence of peace talks that collapsed in 2014.

Tensions have also been inflamed by frequent clashes between Palestinian rock-throwers and Israeli security forces at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound and an arson attack in July that killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents.