Israel restricted Palestinian access to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound and kept a tight grip on security as a first fatality tested a hard-won truce ending fighting in and around Gaza.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party was preparing for a primary yesterday amid signs its popularity is slipping among Israelis who would have preferred a ground invasion of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Tensions on the streets of annexed Arab east Jerusalem remained high on Friday, the day after demonstrators stormed an Israeli police station to secure the release of a Palestinian woman who tried to stab a border guard.
The army reported arresting 28 suspected West Bank militants — including five members of Hamas — in the wake of a security sweep on Thursday in which 55 “terror operatives” were detained.
Israel decided on further precaution by barring Palestinians under the age of 40 from the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem — Islam’s third-holiest site — also revered by Jews.
The mosque compound has been the focus of past clashes and Israel sought to prevent any repetition that could jeopardize the truce ending eight days of fighting that killed 166 Palestinians and six Israelis.
The ceasefire was holding despite a dozen rockets being fired at Israel from Gaza in the first post-truce hours and a warning from Netanyahu that he would resume the offensive if need be.
The Palestinians also reported their first post-conflict casualty at the hands of Israeli soldiers, who reportedly opened fire on a group of farmers near the Gaza border on Friday.
“This is the first Israeli violation of the truce,” Sami Abu Zuhri of the Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza told reporters.
An Israeli army representative said the troops had been forced to fire warning shots after hundreds of Palestinians attacked a border fence.
The Palestinian emergency services identified the victim as 21-year-old Abdelhadi Qdeih Anwar. They added that 19 other Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds in the village of Khuzaa.
No rockets were fired in reprisal by Hamas.
Israel slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday for his support for Gaza following its confrontation with the Jewish state, while casting aspersions on the legitimacy of his upcoming bid for an upgraded Palestinian status at the UN.
Abbas has had no control over Gaza since 2007, when Hamas seized power from his Fatah faction in a week of street battles.
According to Hamas, Abbas telephoned Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya on Thursday to congratulate him “on his victory and [offer] condolences for the martyrs.”
“It’s not worthy that President Abbas did not once condemn the deadly rocket fire from Gaza on Israel’s innocent civil population,” an official who attends Israeli Cabinet meetings said.
Israel is frustrated over Abbas’ intention to put the Palestinian bid for non-state observer membership to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, which is expected to pass with ease, despite vigorous US opposition.
Israel says the bid is a breach of the 1993 Oslo Accords, intended to pave the way for a full resolution of the conflict.
The first opinion polls assessing the Israeli government’s handling of the Gaza conflict in the run-up to a snap general election called for January showed a general sense of disappointment over the ceasefire.
A study commissioned by the Maariv newspaper found 49 percent of respondents said Israel should have continued its operation of air strikes, while 31 percent agreed with the truce.
The same poll showed support for the Likud Party slipping by 6 percentage points over the past month. However, Likud was still leading the opposition Labor Party and remains on track to form a new coalition with ultra-nationalist and Jewish Orthodox groups.
Yesterday’s Likud primary was to determine the party list to be put to voters on Jan. 22. Analysts are watching to see if the party tilts further to the right in response to public disaffection over the truce.