Israel counted the cost yesterday after hundreds of Palestinians clashed with security forces across east Jerusalem, amid the worst diplomatic spat in decades between Israel and its key ally the US.
As the worst rioting in years rocked Jerusalem on Tuesday and a senior Hamas leader called for a new Intifada, or uprising, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell delayed a visit to the region despite efforts to revive peace talks.
Israeli police fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas at Palestinian protesters who hurled stones and set up barricades of dumpsters and burning tires in several neighborhoods.
Twenty-one injured Palestinians were hospitalized and dozens more were treated on the spot, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.
One policeman suffered a pistol shot to the hand in an Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, adding that the unknown gunman got away.
Four other policeman were briefly taken to hospital and another 10 treated on site after being hit by rocks.
Sixty Palestinians were arrested.
Also on Tuesday, stones were thrown at a bus in the largely Arab neighborhood of Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, said Rosenfeld, the first reports of unrest in other Israeli cities. The bus was damaged, but there were no injuries.
The clashes erupted across east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move not recognized by the international community.
As the rioting flared, Hamas deputy politburo chief Mussa Abu Marzuk called for another popular Palestinian uprising.
“The Intifada must enjoy the participation of all of Palestinian society,” he told Al-Jazeera television. “Every Palestinian should rise up … against the forces of the [Israeli] occupation.”
In the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip thousands of people took to the streets, chanting: “With our blood, with our souls, we sacrifice for you, Jerusalem.”
The Palestinians have launched two Intifadas against Israeli rule in the occupied territories, the first in 1987 and the second in 2000, but Hamas’ calls for a new uprising in recent years have been largely ignored.
Israeli police chief Dudi Cohen told reporters he did not see signs of a new uprising: “We are seeing signs of disorderly conduct, but that’s all.”
Palestinians were already seething over Israeli plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem.
Last week’s announcement of the project also incensed Washington, and Mitchell postponed a visit to the region that was to start on Tuesday.
That trip will not take place before the Middle East Quartet meets in Moscow today.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he would not travel to Moscow because of the tension in Jerusalem.
But even as Mitchell stayed away, the mutual anger appeared to ease slightly with warmer words being uttered on both sides.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington remained committed to reviving peace talks, telling reporters there was “too much at stake” for Palestinians and Israelis to abandon them.
US officials said Clinton would talk soon with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an effort to ease the bitter diplomatic feud, maybe as early as Wednesday.
In a possible sign it wants to stop the row widening, the administration termed the dispute a disagreement between friends that would not shatter the “unbreakable bond” between the allies.
Netanyahu responded in a statement: “The State of Israel appreciates and cherishes the warm words from Secretary of State Clinton on the deep ties between the US and Israel and the US commitment to Israel’s security.”
Later yesterday, Israel reopened the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound and lifted a days-old lockdown of the occupied West Bank, a day after Jerusalem saw the heaviest Palestinian rioting in years.
Rosenfeld said his forces remained on high alert for any unrest but that the mosque compound — the holiest site for Jews and the third holiest for Muslims — had been reopened.
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