Palestinians clash with Israeli police as Hamas calls for new 'intifada'

Israeli police fired tears gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets as hundreds of Palestinians rioted across east Jerusalem on Tuesday in the worst rioting in years as a Hamas leader called for a new "intifada", or uprising.


AFP - Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces across east Jerusalem on Tuesday in the worst rioting in years as a senior Hamas leader called for a new "intifada," or uprising.

As the unrest rocked Jerusalem, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell delayed a visit to the region amid the most severe diplomatic row in decades between Israel and the United States, which has been struggling to revive peace talks.

Police fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas at protesters who hurled stones and set up barricades with dumpsters and burning tyres in several neighbourhoods.


In at least one neighbourhood undercover Israeli police officers disguised as protestors wrestled demonstrators to the ground and handcuffed them.

Sixteen Palestinians were taken to hospital, with fractured bones, eye and stomach injuries, and dozens more were treated on the spot, according to the emergency services of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said four officers were briefly taken to hospital and another 10 were treated on the spot, while 60 Palestinians were  arrested.

There were clashes in the Shuafat refugee camp and in several other parts of east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognised by the international community.

As the rioting was under way Hamas deputy politburo chief Mussa Abu Marzuk called for another popular Palestinian uprising.

"The intifada must enjoy the participation of all of Palestinian society," he told Al-Jazeera television. "Every Palestinian should rise up... against the forces of the (Israeli) occupation."

In the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip thousands of people took to the streets, chanting: "With our blood, with our souls, we sacrifice for you, Jerusalem."

The Palestinians have launched two intifadas against Israeli rule in the occupied territories, the first in 1987 and the second in 2000.

The second uprising, known as the Al-Aqsa intifada, saw scores of suicide bombings inside Israel and large-scale Israeli military incursions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has made similar calls in recent years that have gone unheeded.

Anger was already high among Palestinians over Israel's announcement of plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem.

The announcement last week also incensed the US administration, which had sent Vice President Joe Biden to the region to promote new peace talks.

Mitchell postponed a visit to the region that was to start on Tuesday, the US embassy said.

Earlier this month, the Palestinians reluctantly agreed to hold indirect talks with Israel after a 14-month hiatus in negotiations, but the outlook for a swift resumption of the peace process now looks bleak.

The reopening of a twice-destroyed Hurva synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's walled Old City on Monday further fuelled tensions.

Many Palestinians view Israeli projects near the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound -- Islam's third holiest site -- as an assault on its tense status quo or a prelude to the building of a third Jewish temple there.

Jews refer to the compound as the Temple Mount and consider it their holiest site because the second Temple stood there before the Romans destroyed it in 70 AD.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on Tuesday criticised Israel's inauguration of the rebuilt synagogue, saying it risked "dragging the region into a religious war."

Rival Palestinian factions also united in condemning the high-security opening of the landmark synagogue, which was last destroyed 62 years ago in fighting with Jordan during the 1948 war that followed Israel's creation.

"This is no mere synagogue," said Hatem Abdel Qader, the official in charge of Jerusalem affairs for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement.

"This synagogue will be a prelude to violence and religious fanaticism and extremism, and this is not limited to Jewish extremists but includes members of the Israeli government," he added.

The US State Department took strong exception to the Palestinian statements, saying "such incitement" would heighten tensions.

Palestinians were all the more irate because Israeli police have restricted access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound since Friday and the army has sealed off the West Bank, fearing unrest.

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