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Violence clouds peace talks efforts

Crowds of Palestinian youths went on the rampage in east Jerusalem as a sudden burst of violence clouded fragile peace efforts.

The Palestinian president signalled he may back away from threats to walk away from the negotiations next week if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proceeds with plans to resume settlement construction in the West Bank.

"I cannot say I will leave the negotiations, but it's very difficult for me to resume talks if Prime Minister Netanyahu declares that he will continue his (settlement) activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem," Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said in an address to US Jewish leaders in New York.

The violence was a vivid illustration of how sensitive the situation in east Jerusalem can be. The competing Israeli and Palestinian claims to the area, home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, have frequently escalated into clashes and intense fighting.

The clashes erupted in the Silwan neighbourhood shortly after a 32-year-old Palestinian man was killed by a private Israeli security guard watching over Jewish families in the area. About 70 ultranationalist Jewish families live in Silwan, amid some 50,000 Palestinian residents.

After the shooting, rioting spread throughout Silwan and to the nearby walled Old City. During the man's funeral procession, hundreds of protesters set tyres on fire and smashed the windows of several buses .

At one point, Israeli riot police stormed the hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The site is the most explosive in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in the past, even seemingly minor incidents have ignited clashes and protests throughout the region.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police moved into the compound after stone throwers attacked Jewish worshippers at the adjacent Western Wall, the holiest prayer site for Jews.

He said the stone throwers fled into the Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site, and after a standoff for several minutes, riot forces pulled back without further incident.

In other unrest, Palestinian crowds overturned three cars with passengers inside, in one case dragging a man out of his vehicle and stabbing him. Five buses had their windows smashed out, in one case forcing passengers to get off and flee, and a paramilitary police jeep was set on fire and destroyed.


From Belfast Telegraph