Killing sparks un­rest in East Jerusalem

Pales­tini­ans clash with Is­raeli po­lice af­ter a guard slays a man. Forces briefly en­ter the Al Aqsa area.

Los Angeles Times - - The World - Ed­mund San­ders re­port­ing from jerusalem ed­mund.san­ders @latimes.com

With U.S.-bro­kered peace talks hang­ing by a thread, clashes erupted in East Jerusalem on Wed­nes­day af­ter a pri­vate Is­raeli se­cu­rity guard, work­ing for Jewish res­i­dents of an Arab­dom­i­nated area, shot to death a Pales­tinian man dur­ing an early-morn­ing al­ter­ca­tion.

Hours later, fol­low­ing the fu­neral of the slain man, Samer Sarhan, 32, Pales­tinian youths in the restive Sil­wan neigh­bor­hood con­fronted Is­raeli po­lice, throw­ing rocks, set­ting three cars on fire and in­jur­ing at least seven passersby, Is­raeli po­lice said.

Rock-throw­ing attacks soon spread to other parts of East Jerusalem, in­clud­ing the Old City. At least five Pales­tini­ans were also in­jured, Pales­tinian au­thor­i­ties said.

The ri­ots marked one of the most vi­o­lent days in Jerusalem in re­cent months, with the sounds of po­lice sirens and he­li­copters fill­ing the air and black smoke ris­ing in the sky.

In a rare move, Is­raeli riot po­lice briefly raided the com­pound around the Al Aqsa mosque, an Is­lamic holy site in the Old City, to clear the area of young Pales­tinian men whom they feared would pelt Jewish wor­shipers at the Western Wall be­low. Is­raeli po­lice typ­i­cally do not en­ter the com­pound area, to avoid ex­ac­er­bat­ing re­li­gious ten­sions.

Pales­tinian lead­ers ac­cused the Is­raeli govern­ment of pro­vok­ing the vi­o­lence as an at­tempt to de­flect at­ten­tion from the cur­rent im­passe in peace talks, which could col­lapse as early as Sun­day if Is­rael ends a par­tial mora­to­rium on con­struc­tion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“This vi­o­lent es­ca­la­tion by the Is­raeli oc­cu­py­ing forces rep­re­sents de­struc­tive mea­sures that de­feat the peace-build­ing agenda,” said Pales­tinian Author­ity spokesman Ghas­san Khatib. He blamed Wed­nes­day’s vi­o­lence on Is­rael’s pol­icy of al­low­ing “heav­ily armed set­tlers in the heart of Pales­tinian neigh­bor­hoods.”

A lead­ing Is­raeli hu­man rights group said se­cu­rity in Pales­tinian neigh­bor­hoods should not be left in the hands of pri­vate se­cu­rity firms.

Is­raeli of­fi­cials in turn ac­cused Pales­tinian ag­i­ta­tors in Sil­wan of am­bush­ing the se­cu­rity guard, who they said shot in self-de­fense. Po­lice de­nied that the vi­o­lence was linked to the re­cent restart of peace talks.

“There’s no con­nec­tion what­so­ever,” said Is­raeli po­lice spokesman Micky Rosen­feld. “This was a lo­cal in­ci­dent that should be put in pro­por­tion.”

Still, the vi­o­lence is likely to heighten ten­sions be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans and in­crease pres­sure on lead­ers from both sides to re­solve their dis­pute over Is­rael’s set­tle­ment con­struc­tion.

Pales­tinian Author­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas has threat­ened to quit di­rect peace talks, which re­sumed less than a month ago, if Is­rael does not ex­tend its mora­to­rium be­yond the Sept. 26 dead­line.

But in a speech to Jewish lead­ers in the United States on Tues­day, Ab­bas in­di­cated that he was un­sure whether he would walk out.

“I can­not say I will leave the ne­go­ti­a­tions, but it will be very dif­fi­cult to con­tinue if [Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin] Ne­tanyahu will an­nounce that he will start build­ing,” Ab­bas was quoted as say­ing, ac­cord­ing to a tran­script ob­tained by the As­so­ci­ated Press.

Other Pales­tinian ne­go­tia­tors, how­ever, con­tin­ued to warn that they would quit if con­struc­tion re­sumed.

Ne­tanyahu is un­der grow­ing pres­sure from the U.S. and oth­ers to ex­tend the mora­to­rium. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity con­sid­ers such build­ing on ter­ri­tory Is­rael oc­cu­pied in the 1967 Mid­dle East War to be il­le­gal.

So far, Ne­tanyahu has re­fused to say what he will do, rais­ing hopes among some that a last-minute com­pro­mise can be reached.

Ber­nat Ar­mangue

IN HARM’S WAY: An ul­tra-Ortho­dox Jewish man pre­pares to de­fend him­self in­side a dam­aged bus in East Jerusalem. Sev­eral passersby were hurt in the ri­ots.

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