Israel wants to partially wall off and place obstacles in Arab sections of Jerusalem to hinder Palestinian access to predominantly Jewish areas after a wave of knife attacks.
The Israeli government overnight approved a plan to build sections of walls between Arab and Jewish neigbhourhoods in Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported, among others in spots where Palestinians have been throwing firebombs and rocks at houses and cars of Jewish Israelis.
The Arab neighbourhood of Jabel al-Mukhaber, home to many of the Palestinians suspected in the recent wave of stabbings, will be partially blocked off from neighbouring Jewish areas, the radio said. Some obstacles have already been put in place.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire from right-wing and ultra-nationalist ministers, who say placing partial walls between East and West Jerusalem amounted to a de facto division of the city, which they oppose.
Israel’s existing security wall, built in 2002, was built between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, outside the Israeli-drawn municipal boundary.
The new plan calls for sections of walls inside the Israeli-drawn municipality boundaries. Paletinians would likely have to pass through checkpoints, where they would be searched for knives and other weapons in order for them to leave their neighbourhoods and reach the city centre.
Israel meanwhile summoned the French ambassador to Tel Aviv over France’s proposal to station international observers on a Jerusalem holy site that is at the centre of the violence.
The meeting at the Foreign Ministry was acrimonious, spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.
“Israel’s outright rejection to the French proposal to station monitors on the Temple Mount was made clear,” he said, adding that Israel was also annoyed that Paris failed to coordinate with Israel its idea for a UN Security council statement calling for such observers.
At issue is Israel’s sensitivity to its sovereignty over Jerusalem including Jewish visitation rights to the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. It houses al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, but also the ruins of the Biblical Jewish Temple.
Under a decades-old status quo agreement, Jews may visit, but not pray on the mount. Instead, they may pray at an adjacent ancient retaining wall, known as the Wailing Wall.
Many Muslims fear that Israel wants to change the status quo, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vehemently denied this and accused Muslim leaders of enflaming the region by spreading “wild lies.”
Anger over the perceived Israeli practices at the sensitive site has been the immediate trigger of the recent wave of violence.
Palestinians have carried out some 29 knife attacks against Israelis since October 3.
Eight Israelis have been killed and many injured.
Forty-five Palestinians have been killed – over half of them assailants shot dead stabbing or attempting to stab Israelis.
The rest – a dozen on the Gaza border and six in the West Bank – were shot in clashes with Israeli soldiers, who have used live ammunition in addition to tear gas and rubber bullets against Palestinians storming the border or hurling rocks and petrol bombs at Israeli securty forces and civilians.
More than 1,850 Palestinians have been injured by rubber bullets and live ammunition, the Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement.
In the latest knife and shooting attack late Sunday, a Bedouin from southern Israel entered a bus terminal in the desert city of Beersheba armed with a knife and gun, and attacked Israelis, killing a soldier and injuring a dozen others.
The assailant grabbed the semi-automic gun of the soldier and used that too in his attack, police said. He was shot in a gunbattle with police.
A security guard shot an Eritrean national whom he mistook for a second assailant and furious bystanders then beat and kicked the migrant, who was already on the floor. The man died of his wounds in hospital overnight.
Israeli media described the incident as a “lynching” and police – promising to arrest the Israeli citizens who kicked, beat and threw chairs at the victim – called on nervous Israelis to act with caution and restraint and not to take the law into their own hands.
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Berlin Thursday, while Kerry is expected to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman Saturday, in an effort to stop the escalating violence.