By Mohammed Assadi
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – The Western-backed Palestinian government pledged on Monday “to confront Israel” as Israeli troops clashed with protesters for a second day in the Jerusalem area.
Youths hurled rocks at policemen and burned cardboard cartons and trash in the streets of Shuafat outside Arab East Jerusalem, after Israel arrested a teenager it suspects stabbed and wounded a soldier conducting a security check on a bus.
The violence spread to the outskirts of Ramallah, where about 50 Palestinian teenagers took cover behind trucks and cars while hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers, who reporters saw responding by firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
One policeman was injured by a rock, seven protesters were arrested and a few were treated for gas inhalation. Nine Palestinians and two Israeli policemen sustained minor injuries in scuffles that erupted in Jerusalem on Sunday, and 30 were hurt in similar clashes a week ago.
Palestinians have warned that the tensions flaring over access to a holy compound housing the al-Aqsa mosque, an area also revered by Jews as the site of an ancient temple, could, on the background of stalled peace talks, ignite a third uprising.
Issuing a strong statement after a meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah, the Palestinian government of President Mahmoud Abbas, that is led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said it would “confront Israel and its plan.”
It accused the Jewish state of seeking to deny Palestinians a goal of achieving statehood in land Israel captured in a 1967 war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has conditionally agreed to a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but peace talks have remained stalled for months despite U.S. efforts to revive them, over Israel’s refusal to halt Jewish settlement building.
The Palestinian statement also took aim at controversy over Jerusalem, and condemned what it called a plan by Jews to “perform religious rituals” in a compound containing the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.
It further asked the world to “force it (Israel) to put off its attempts to take over Jerusalem and Judaize it.”
Jerusalem is a key and highly emotive issue in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in a 1967 war and annexed it as part of its capital in a move never recognized internationally. Palestinians want the city as capital of a future state.
Violence in Jerusalem flared on Sunday after Israel briefly shut gates leading to the compound around al-Aqsa, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, citing concerns for possible violence as hundreds of Jews held holiday prayers at the adjacent Western Wall.
The gates were partly reopened once calm was restored after stone-throwing protests by Palestinians in anger at being kept from reaching the holy site. There was no violence in the area on Monday when thousands of Jews worshipped at the Western Wall.
Israeli Police Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch vowed to “take all necessary action” to prevent further violence.
Ilan Franco, Israel’s police chief for Jerusalem, appealed for calm, condemning what he called some isolated people “from all sectors (who) are generating a warlike atmosphere.”