Palestinians continue protests over Jerusalem as Abbas calls for halting settlement

09:47, March 18, 2010      

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by Saud Abu Ramadan

Palestinian protests against the Israeli measures in Jerusalem continued on Wednesday as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to halt its measures and settlement construction in Jerusalem.

Witnesses said fierce clashes between Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli soldiers continued on Wednesday over Israel's opening of a rebuilt Hurva synagogue, located several hundred meters far from al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The clashes erupted on Wednesday in East Jerusalem as well as in the suburbs of the West Bank cities of Nablus, Beit Sahour and Hebron. The Israeli army dispersed the Palestinian protestors by force.

During Tuesday's clashes, some 100 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers were injured, said the witnesses.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Radio quoted senior Israeli army officials as saying that they expect the wave of violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to decline, expecting that "the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank are not interested in keeping the wave of violence flaming."

In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated on Wednesday near the borders between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel against the ongoing Israeli blockade imposed on the coastal strip and the latest Israeli measures in Jerusalem, mainly reopening the synagogue and expanding settlements.

Gaza organizers of the protest said that the demonstration was arranged also to protest against the Israeli security measures in the Gaza Strip, mainly enlarging the no-go zone area on the borders between the blockaded enclave and Israel.

Witnesses said that crowds gathered near the Nahal Ozz crossing east of Gaza city, adding that Israeli soldiers opened intensive warning fire at the demonstrators who tried to approach the border area.

The Palestinian left-wing parties in Gaza had earlier called for a demonstration near the borders to protest against the security no-go zone, the ongoing blockade and the latest Israeli measures in East Jerusalem.

Foreign activists from several international solidarity movements joined the demonstration, where demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans against Israel.

Saleh Zeidan, member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), who participated in the protest, told reporters "this demonstration was arranged to reiterate that this territory is completely a Palestinian territory."

He accused Israel of trying to annex parts of the Gaza Strip area to its territories, adding "the Palestinians won't stop their protests until Israel decides to close these zones in the Gaza Strip."

"The West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are one united Palestinian territory that was occupied by Israel in 1967 and should be completely liberated," said Zeidan.

On Tuesday, dozens of Palestinians demonstrated near the borders between northern Gaza Strip and Israel, during which Israeli army forces opened intensive warning fire, and the demonstration was peacefully dispersed with no injuries.

Meanwhile, Abbas on Wednesday called on Israel to stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in order to start U.S.-led proximity talks between the two sides, which were backed by the Arab League.

Israel's approval last week of building 1,600 homes in the eastern section of Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as a capital for their future state, delayed the re-launch of the indirect negotiations after the Arabs and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) accepted the U.S. proposal.

Speaking to reporters in a joint news conference with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday in Ramallah, Abbas urged his rival Hamas movement to accept an Egyptian proposal for Palestinian national reconciliation, a matter which would help lifting the Israeli blockade.

Hamas took over Gaza after routing pro-Abbas forces in deadly fighting in 2007. Currently, the Palestinian National Authority ( PNA) holds sway in parts of the West Bank.

Both Abbas and Lula called for an end to the blockade Israel imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Abbas basically opposes resolving the conflict with Israel by violence, but insists that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be only resolved through peace negotiations.

"The siege on Gaza must be lifted" and the barrier Israel is building in the West Bank "must fall," Lula said. He added that Brazil takes part in international efforts to rebuild Gaza following the end of a three-week Israeli war there in January 2009.

Source: Xinhua
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