Palestinians to bury their dead in flashpoint Hebron
Israeli forces shot dead a suspected Palestinian knife attacker Saturday as funerals were to be held in the restive West Bank city of Hebron for others killed in the latest wave of violence.
The surge of unrest since early October has triggered fears of a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli occupation by a generation gripped by despair and anger over stalled peace efforts.
The Palestinian was shot and killed at a checkpoint between the West Bank and Israel when he tried to stab a border guard, police said.
Nine Israelis, 66 Palestinians and an Arab Israeli have been killed since wave of attacks and violent clashes broke out a month ago in Jerusalem.
The violence has spread to the West Bank, with daily attacks on Israeli soldiers and protests, and also to the Gaza Strip where demonstrators have clashed with Israeli forces along the borders of the blockaded coastal enclave.
Saturday’s foiled knife attack comes as Palestinians were to hold in Hebron a mass funeral for five teenagers, including two girls, killed in unrest with Israeli forces, after Israel released their bodies for burial.
Israel says the five stabbed or had attempted to stab soldiers. Another Palestinian is to be buried separately in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem while another young Palestinian was buried late Friday in Jenin. Many of the attackers who have targeted Israeli forces come from Hebron, a stronghold of Hamas and a powder keg in the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
In recent days the city has been rocked by protests over Israel’s policy of withholding the bodies of attackers as part of measures to dissuade attacks on Jews. Hebron — home to a shrine known to Jews as Cave of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque — is a city of 200,000 Palestinians, has long been the commercial heart of the West Bank.
But the presence of 500 Israeli settlers near the city center, protected by barbed wire, watchtowers and a buffer zone patrolled by the army, has helped make it a hotbed for unrest. On Friday, dozens of protesters outside the shrine condemned restrictions on access imposed by Israel, which has split it into a mosque and a synagogue.
The Maariv newspaper reported that more army checkpoints were being set up in Hebron at the entrances and exits to Jewish areas, where Palestinians aged 15 to 25 will not be allowed to pass.
And Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan has said the government wants to prevent families making funerals a “show of support for terrorism and incitation to murder”. Simmering tensions boiled over in September over the status of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, before spiraling into a series of violent attacks from Oct. 1.
Palestinians accuse Israel of seeking to change the rules governing the site, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted he will not alter a status quo that forbids Jews from praying there. On Friday the Palestinians also urged the International Criminal Court to accelerate its probe into accusations of “Israeli war crimes”, handing over a new 52-page dossier alleging summary killings and collective punishment.
A delegation led by president Mahmud Abbas asked prosecutor Fatou Bensouda “to expedite” a preliminary inquiry into alleged crimes over the past 40 days, Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki said.
“It is extremely important to expedite the process… because if Israel feels impunity, what will deter Israel from multiplying the victims?” Malki asked.
Also on Saturday, former US president Bill Clinton was to address a rally in Tel Aviv in memory of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli premier assassinated 20 years ago by a rightwing Jewish extremist.
The Nobel Peace prize laureate who had signed the 1993 Oslo accords aimed at resolving the decades long Palestinian-Israeli conflict was shot dead in Tel Aviv at a peace rally.