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Clashes in Jerusalem after settler guard kills Palestinian

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-23

An Israeli security guard killed a Palestinian in an Arab neighbourhood of Jerusalem on Wednesday, triggering clashes between police and rioters, including in the compound of the al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites.

AFP - Clashes erupted in Jerusalem on Wednesday after a Jewish settlement guard shot dead a Palestinian during a confrontation in a tense neighbourhood in the annexed Arab eastern part of the city.

Several people were wounded as the violence flared throughout the day, with Palestinians torching two vehicles and Israeli police eventually entering the nearby flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, sacred to both Jews and Muslims.

The violence came as negotiators were struggling to reach a compromise on the impending end of a partial settlement moratorium that threatens to torpedo Israeli-Palestinian peace talks relaunched earlier this month.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the fighting began when Arab residents of the Silwan neighbourhood threw stones at the car of a security guard for a Jewish settlement.

"A guard responsible for protecting Jewish residents of the neighbourhood opened fire with his pistol after his car was attacked with stones," he said.

Witnesses said another two Palestinians were wounded in the shooting, and several others were injured later as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at stone-throwing protesters in and around the neighbourhood.

The guard had opened fire after his car was stopped at a barricade Palestinians had set up. He was later detained for questioning, Rosenfeld said.

The man who was killed, Samir Serhan, had been detained in the past for "participation in unrest," he added.

Palestinian residents and local officials said it was not clear what sparked the violence, which erupted before dawn.

"We were awakened by the sound of gunfire at 4:00 am (0200 GMT) and when we came down we found Samir's body on the front steps," a cousin of the victim, Samih Serhan, said, adding that the dead man left behind five children.

Violence erupted again during the funeral march, with Palestinian youths hurling stones at police cars and other vehicles, setting two of them on fire, according to an AFP photographer.

Israeli police said the two cars were civilian vehicles, and that three Israelis had been lightly wounded by the stones.

Police later said they had entered the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in pursuit of stone-throwing youth, adding that they had not used "riot dispersal means."

Silwan, a crowded neighbourhood where a few dozen Jewish families live in a guarded enclave surrounded by 12,000 Arab residents, is one of the most volatile areas of east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed in a move not recognised by the international community.

The neighbourhood is just outside the walls of the Old City and the mosque compound, which is the holiest site for Jews because it was the location of the Second Jewish Temple, torched by the Romans in 70 AD.

The compound is the third holiest site for Muslims, after Mecca and Medina.

It has frequently been the scene of violence, and was the epicentre of the outbreak of a Palestinian intifada, or uprising, almost exactly 10 years ago.

Wednesday's violence highlighted the challenges Israeli and Palestinian negotiators face in peace talks which resumed on September 2 after a 20-month hiatus.

"This violent escalation by the Israeli occupying forces represents destructive measures that defeat the peace-building agenda," said Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

"Continuing to place heavily armed settlers in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods results in daily provocations and violence against defenseless and unarmed Palestinians," he added in a statement.

The Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza also spoke out against the incident, saying it showed "the vicious intentions of the occupation government in using the continuation of negotiations to cover its crimes."

The fate of Jewish settlements and the future status of east Jerusalem have bedevilled peace efforts since the early 1990s.

The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, to be illegal.

The Palestinians want a freeze on all settlement construction but are also pushing for the renewal of a partial moratorium on new West Bank settler homes that will end within days, even though it does not include east Jerusalem.

Israel does not consider Jewish residents of east Jerusalem to be settlers as it views the entire Holy City as its "eternal and indivisible capital."

Date created : 2010-09-22


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