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U.N.’s Ban in effort to calm Israeli-Palestinian violence

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon planned a snap visit on Tuesday to try to stem Israeli-Palestinian violence as Israel issued fresh assurances meant to address Muslim fears of Jewish encroachment at a mosque compound at the center of the conflict.

Israeli officials said Ban, whose trip was announced in Israel only hours before his expected arrival, would meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day in Jerusalem. He will see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday, Palestinian officials said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is to hold talks with Netanyahu in Germany during the prime minister’s visit there on Wednesday and Thursday, has said Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to clarify the status of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound to help stop three weeks of bloodshed.

Kerry planned to meet Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, likely in Amman, later in the week.

The violence has been stoked partly by Palestinians’ anger at what they see as increased Jewish visits to the al-Aqsa plaza, Islam’s holiest site outside Saudi Arabia and revered in Judaism as the location of two destroyed biblical temples.

“Israel has not and will not change the status quo. That is one huge lie,” Netanyahu said in a speech to international Jewish leaders meeting in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Under long-standing arrangements, Islamic religious authorities administer al-Aqsa. Israel allows Jews to visit but not pray in the compound in Jerusalem’s walled Old City that it captured along with other parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war.

In a video message to Israelis and Palestinians released prior to his arrival, Ban said: “Do not allow the extremists on either side to use religion to further fuel the conflict.

“Palestinian and Israeli leaders: Stand firm against terror, violence and incitement. Demonstrate in both words and deeds that the historic status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem will be preserved,” Ban said in the video.

In the latest deadly incident, a Palestinian vehicle ran over and killed an Israeli motorist whom a Reuters photographer said was using a club to hit Palestinian protesters and cars on a roadside in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli police said the man had stopped his car after stones were thrown at it.

The driver of the Palestinian vehicle, which the photographer said the Israeli had hit with his club, later turned himself in to Palestinian police, which had no comment on the event. Israeli police said it was not immediately clear if the Israeli had been run over deliberately.

Earlier, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli officer in the West Bank before other troops shot the assailant, the Israeli military said. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the Palestinian was killed.

STABBINGS, SHOOTINGS, RAMMINGS

Prior to Tuesday’s incident, eight Israelis were killed in stabbings, shootings and car rammings by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank. An Eritrean, mistaken as an assailant during an Arab gunman’s assault in the town of Beersheba, also died after being shot by a security guard and kicked by an angry crowd.

Israeli security forces have killed at least 42 Palestinians, including 20 assailants and demonstrators, one of whom, police said, fired a gun at them.

In a newspaper interview published on Tuesday, Netanyahu, who has publicly cautioned there was no “quick fix” to the worst Palestinian street violence in years, voiced confidence that the conflict would not widen.

“Proper management has ensured that there will not be a mass conflagration in the name of religious war, including a flare-up in terms of missiles from Gaza and Lebanon,” said Netanyahu, who has been accused by some of his cabinet ministers of not doing enough to keep Israelis safe.

Hundreds of Israeli troops have deployed along with police in Israeli cities. But a decade after the end of the last Palestinian uprising, the violence has unsettled many Israelis.

The usually busy downtown streets of Jerusalem have been largely empty of shoppers but indoor malls, which have security guards at entrances, are still bustling.

Early on Tuesday, the Israeli military said its forces had detained Hassan Youssef, a top leader of the Hamas group in the West Bank, for “actively instigating and inciting terrorism and publicly encouraging and praising the execution of attacks against Israelis”.

Youssef has been arrested previously by Israel on a number of occasions and was last released earlier this year. A statement issued by Hamas officials said Israel should expect “more revenge operations in defense of al-Aqsa”. Reuters


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