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UN calls for meeting over escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence

The United Nations Security Council will meet on Monday to discuss the spate of Israeli-Palestinian violence in years, diplomats said on Saturday as clashes continued around a Jerusalem holy site.

Palestinian stabs 4 people in Israeli home, while clashes over holy site result in 3 Palestinian deaths

Israeli border police officers stand guard in front of Palestinian youths near Jerusalem's Old City on Friday. Israel police clashed with Muslim protesters over the installation of metal detectors at the holy site. (/Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press)

The United Nations Security Council will meet on Monday to discuss the worst spate of Israeli-Palestinian violence in years, diplomats said on Saturday as clashes continued around a contested Jerusalem holy site. 

Sweden, Egypt and France requested the meeting to "urgently discuss how calls for de-escalation in Jerusalem can be supported," Sweden's Deputy UN ambassador, Carl Skau, posted on Twitter.

Israel's defence minister consulted with senior commanders in the West Bank on Saturday, a day after a Palestinian man stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family in their home and widespread Israeli-Palestinian clashes erupted over new security measures imposed at the shrine.

The father of the 20-year-old Palestinian assailant said he believes his son was upset over the loss of Palestinian lives and wanted to protect the "honour" of the Jerusalem holy site.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigodor Lieberman said in his meeting with commanders that the attacker's home would be demolished swiftly. He called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the attack he described as a "slaughter." Lieberman and army chief Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, visited the scene of the attack.

Earlier, the Israeli military said it sent more troops to the West Bank.

The Israeli military says disturbances have erupted in the West Bank village where the attacker lived.

The military says about 50 people hurled rocks at Israeli troops in Kobar as they were searching the home of the attacker. Local residents said the family emptied its home of valuables, anticipating its demolition. They said local residents threw stones and burned tires and that soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas.

Hundreds of Palestinians defiantly held their evening prayers on Saturday outside the holy site they call Haram esh-Sharif and Jewish worshippers call the Temple Mount, refusing to pass through security measures Israel imposed after a deadly attack there.

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

In response, Israel installed metal detectors at the gates of the 15-hectare walled compound, portraying the devices as a needed security measure to prevent more attacks.

Muslims alleged 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, anger boiled over and several thousand Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and in Jerusalem after noon prayers, the highlight of the Muslim religious week. Three Palestinians were killed and several dozen wounded by live rounds and bullets in some of the worst street clashes in two years.

Family killed during Sabbath dinner

On Friday evening, a man identified as Omar al-Abed jumped over the fence of the Israeli settlement of Halamish in the West Bank and entered a home, surprising a family during their Sabbath dinner.

The Israeli military said the assailant killed a man and two of his adult children, while a woman was wounded. A neighbour 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.
Israel's defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman talks to army chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot at an Israeli military base in the West Bank. Israel has sent more troops to the West Bank. (Israeli military/Associated Press)

A photo released by the military showed a kitchen floor covered with blood.

Itai Orayon, a medic, said he found "blood everywhere" in the house. He told Israel 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.

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.

Angered over holy site 

The army said soldiers searched the house and measured it in preparation for demolition.

The assailant's father said his son had been angered by the escalation at the Jerusalem shrine.

Ibrahim al-Abed, an uncle of the assailant, said his nephew had been arrested three months ago by security forces of Abbas, the Palestinian leader who presides over autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The uncle said his nephew spent two weeks in detention and was violently interrogated about alleged plans to attack Israelis before he was released.
Palestinian medics and protesters evacuate an injured man during clashes with Israeli soldiers on the Israeli border with Gaza. An escalating dispute over metal detectors at a contested Jerusalem shrine turned violent on Friday, setting off widespread clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli troops. (Khalil Hamra/Associated Press)

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 and a photo of Abbas' predecessor, Yasser Arafat, founder of Hamas' main rival, the Fatah movement.

Israel accuses Abbas of exploiting tensions

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

Michael Oren, a deputy minister for public diplomacy, alleged Saturday that Hamas and Abbas' government are exploiting tensions to incite violence. He said claims that Israel intends to change delicate arrangements at the Muslim-administered Jerusalem shrine are "emphatically untrue."

Oren also argued that metal detectors are a routine security measure at holy sites around the world and that Palestinian leaders seized on the issue as a pretext to whip up anti-Israeli sentiment.

Israeli officials have said they would guarantee continued access to Muslim worshippers but have not said how huge crowds could speedily pass through metal detectors during busy periods.

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.

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 co-ordination. Ending such ties would have far-reaching repercussions and sharply raise tensions with Israel.

Clarifications

  • Some of the language in this article has been amended from its original form to ensure it is impartial in accordance with CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices.
    Jul 28, 2017 12:37 PM ET

With files from Reuters

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