Is­raeli forces on high alert amid some of worst clashes in years

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ian Deitch and Aron Heller

JERSUALEM» 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 erupted 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 — known to Mus­lims as the Haram al-sharif, or Noble Sanc­tu­ary, and to Jews as the Tem­ple Mount — 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-year-old Palestinian as­sailant who car­ried out the grisly stab­bing spree. 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 shrine, 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 alabed 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.

Nasser Nasser, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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