Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday he did not want a spike in deadly violence in East Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to spiral into armed confrontation with Israel.
Four Israelis have been killed since Thursday in a stabbing and a drive-by shooting blamed on Palestinian militants. Police shot dead the Palestinian knife-wielder and the military arrested five members of the Islamist Hamas group for the shooting.
Two Palestinians, one of them a 13-year-old, have been killed and about 170 injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank since Sunday. Another Palestinian man, suspected of having stabbed and wounded an Israeli teen, was shot dead by police in Jerusalem.
With Israeli-Palestinian peace talks dormant since 2014, the bloodshed has raised concerns about a wider escalation and a possible third Palestinian uprising, though it has not reached the level of past Israeli-Palestinian confrontations.
Abbas, at a gathering of the Palestine Liberation Organization, signaled that he hoped to avoid violent conflict, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a series of security measures that fell short of an extensive military operation.
“We tell them (the Israelis) that we do not want either military or security escalation,” Abbas said at the PLO meeting. “All our instructions to our (security) agencies, our factions and our youth have been that we do not want escalation.”
As part of Netanyahu’s pledged steps to stem what he termed a “wave of terrorism,” Israeli forces destroyed the homes of two Palestinian militants and sealed off part of a third in and around Jerusalem before dawn on Tuesday, the Israeli military said.
The militants had carried out attacks on Israelis in 2014 and had all been shot dead by Israeli security forces. Their families still resided in the three homes in question.
Israel has said such demolitions are punitive and can also serve as a deterrent to other potential attackers. Human rights groups condemn the demolition policy as collective punishment.
Netanyahu, who visited an army base in the West Bank on Tuesday, said other measures would include installing security cameras on West Bank roads and a greater Israeli police presence in East Jerusalem.
Recent tensions have been inflamed in particular by frequent clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli security forces at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest shrine.
Palestinians fear increasing visits by Jewish groups to al-Aqsa, revered by Jews as the site of biblical temples, are eroding longtime Muslim religious control there. Netanyahu has said he is committed to maintaining the status quo at al-Aqsa. Reuters