Is­rael bol­sters West Bank forces

Ten­sions high af­ter three slain; home of at­tacker’s kin to be razed

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - IAN DEITCH AND ARON HELLER In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Karin Laub and Mo­hammed Daraghmeh of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

JERUSALEM — Is­rael’s mil­i­tary for­ti­fied its troops in the West Bank and placed forces on high alert Satur­day, a day af­ter a Pales­tinian stabbed to death three mem­bers of an Is­raeli fam­ily and some of the worst Is­raeli-Pales­tinian clashes in years broke out over ten­sions at the Holy Land’s most con­tested shrine.

Af­ter a rel­a­tively quiet day, vi­o­lence re­sumed late Satur­day near the epi­cen­ter of the cur­rent cri­sis in the Old City of Jerusalem. Af­ter hun­dreds of Mus­lim wor­ship­pers de­fi­antly held their evening prayers out­side the Jerusalem holy site, re­sum­ing their protest against se­cu­rity mea­sures Is­rael im­posed af­ter a deadly at­tack there, clashes un­folded with po­lice fir­ing tear gas and water can­nons to dis­perse pro­test­ers.

No in­juries were re­ported, but one Pales­tinian was killed in un­cer­tain cir­cum­stances in other low-level clashes that took place through­out the day, in­clud­ing in the West Bank vil­lage of the 20-yearold Pales­tinian as­sailant who car­ried out the stab­bing ram­page. His fa­ther said he be­lieves his son was mo­ti­vated by a de­sire to pro­tect the “honor” of the Jerusalem holy site.

Is­raeli De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man vis­ited the site of the at­tack, the Is­raeli set­tle­ment of Halamish, and con­sulted with top com­man­ders. Lieber­man said the at­tacker’s home would be de­mol­ished swiftly and called on Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas to con­demn what he called a “slaugh­ter.”

Dis­putes over the Al Aqsa Mosque com­pound, revered by Mus­lims and Jews, have set off ma­jor rounds of Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­fronta­tions be­fore. They were also at the root of the cur­rent vi­o­lence which be­gan last week when Arab gun­men fired from the shrine, killing two Is­raeli po­lice­men.

In re­sponse, Is­rael in­stalled metal de­tec­tors at the gates of the 37-acre walled com­pound, say­ing the de­vices were a needed se­cu­rity mea­sure to pre­vent more at­tacks and were de­ployed rou­tinely at holy sites around the world.

Mus­lims al­lege Is­rael was try­ing to ex­pand its con­trol at the Mus­lim-ad­min­is­tered site un­der the guise of se­cu­rity — a claim Is­rael de­nies — and launched mass prayer protests.

On Fri­day, ten­sions boiled over and sev­eral thou­sand Pales­tini­ans clashed with Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces in the West Bank and in Jerusalem af­ter noon prayers — the cen­ter­piece of the Mus­lim re­li­gious week. Three Pales­tini­ans were killed and sev­eral dozen wounded in some of the worst street clashes in two years.

Late Fri­day evening, a Pales­tinian iden­ti­fied as Omar al-Abed jumped over the fence of the Halamish set­tle­ment and en­tered a home, sur­pris­ing a fam­ily that was cel­e­brat­ing the birth of a new grand­child dur­ing their Sab­bath din­ner.

The Is­raeli mil­i­tary said the as­sailant killed a man and two of his adult chil­dren, while his wife was badly wounded. Their daugh­ter-in-law hid in a sep­a­rate room, shel­ter­ing her young chil­dren. A neigh­bor, an off-duty sol­dier, heard the screams, rushed to the home and opened fire, wound­ing al-Abed who was taken to an Is­raeli hos­pi­tal, said the head of Is­rael’s res­cue ser­vice.

Itai Orayon, a medic, said he found “blood ev­ery­where” in the house. He told Is­rael’s Army Ra­dio that three peo­ple were on the floor, un­con­scious “with deep stab wounds all over their bod­ies,” and that the med­i­cal team was un­able to save them. TV footage showed the floor tiles drenched in blood. The vic­tims have yet to be named.

On Satur­day morn­ing, Is­raeli troops searched the as­sailant’s fam­ily home in the West Bank vil­lage of Ko­bar and de­tained one of his broth­ers, the army said. Video footage re­leased by the mil­i­tary shows sol­diers lead­ing away a hand­cuffed and blind­folded man.

The army said sol­diers searched the house and mea­sured it in prepa­ra­tion for de­mo­li­tion. An­tic­i­pat­ing this, lo­cal res­i­dents said the fam­ily emp­tied its home of valu­ables. Later, clashes broke out as res­i­dents burned tires and hurled rocks at Is­raeli troops who had searched the home. The mil­i­tary says about 50 peo­ple at­tacked troops who fired back with rub­ber bul­lets and tear gas.

The as­sailant said in a pre-at­tack Face­book post that he ex­pected to be killed in the at­tack. He wrote that he wanted his body to be cov­ered by a banner of the Is­lamic mil­i­tant group Ha­mas.

Is­rael has re­peat­edly ac­cused Ab­bas and his Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity of per­mit­ting anti-Is­raeli in­cite­ment in the pub­lic Pales­tinian dis­course.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu de­nounced the at­tack as “an act of ter­ror, car­ried out by an an­i­mal who was in­cited with un­fath­omable ha­tred.”

Ab­bas has re­jected Is­raeli in­cite­ment al­le­ga­tions, say­ing Is­rael’s 50-year-old oc­cu­pa­tion of lands sought for a Pales­tinian state is at the root of wide­spread Pales­tinian anger and helps drive vi­o­lence.

Ab­bas is a staunch op­po­nent of vi­o­lence and in 12 years in power has stuck to se­cu­rity co­or­di­na­tion be­tween his forces and Is­raeli troops against a com­mon en­emy — Ha­mas.

On Fri­day evening, Ab­bas an­nounced that he would “freeze” ties with Is­rael “on all lev­els” un­til the metal de­tec­tors are re­moved from the shrine, but did not say whether this means halt­ing se­cu­rity co­or­di­na­tion. End­ing such ties would have far-reach­ing reper­cus­sions and sharply raise ten­sions with Is­rael.

AP/NASSER NASSER

Pales­tini­ans clash with Is­raeli sol­diers Satur­day in the West Bank vil­lage of Ko­bar as an army bull­dozer closes the road dur­ing an op­er­a­tion to search and mea­sure for de­mo­li­tion the fam­ily home of Omar al-Abed, iden­ti­fied by the Is­raeli army as the as­sailant in a Fri­day at­tack at an Is­raeli set­tle­ment.

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