Obama “Concerned” by Mideast Violence

Obama “Concerned” by Mideast ViolenceObama “Concerned” by Mideast Violence

US President Barack Obama expressed concern about the outbreak of violence centered in Beit-ul-Moqaddas, and called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to tamp down inflammatory rhetoric.

Obama’s statement comes after month-long clashes in which 36 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire and eight Israelis succumbed to Palestinian reprisal attacks.

Mounting clashes in Israel and the Palestinian territories have raised fears of a full-scale uprising, AFP reported.

“We are very concerned about the outbreak of violence,” Obama said at a news conference with visiting South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms violence directed against innocent people, and believe that Israel has a right to maintain basic law and order, and protect its citizens from knife attacks, and violence on the streets.”

Obama refused to acknowledge the fourfold higher death toll among Palestinians, implying that the latter are to blame for the ongoing events.

“We also believe that it’s important for both Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu and Israeli elected officials, and President Abbas and other people in positions of power, to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding,” he said.

Fresh protests erupted Friday after a site revered by Jews in the West Bank city of Nablus was torched.

The arson came as Palestinians called for a “Friday of revolution” against Israel, and police barred men under 40 from attending the main weekly prayers at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque in Beit-ul-Moqaddas, seeking to keep young protesters away.

  UN Protection

Palestine’s top diplomat at the UN asked the Security Council on Friday to consider providing international protection for Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Riyad Mansour told an emergency session that the council must “shoulder its responsibility in maintaining international peace and security” and “urgently intervene to end this aggression”.

“We call upon you once again ... to deal seriously and urgently with the question of providing international protection for our people,” he said.

He said the council should adopt a resolution similar to “Resolution 904”, which was passed in 1994 following a massacre of Palestinian worshippers in the West Bank during the holy month of Ramadan.

The resolution called for “measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians throughout the occupied territory”.

For his part, Israel’s deputy UN envoy, David Roet, said his country would not accept any international protection force around the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

“Let me be crystal clear. Israel will not agree to any international presence on the Temple Mount,” Roet said, using the Jewish term for Al-Aqsa.

  Prayers in Streets

Hundreds of Palestinian worshipers performed Friday prayers in the streets of the Old City in occupied East Beit-ul-Moqaddas on Friday as Israel imposed age restrictions on male worshipers.

Israeli police prevented Palestinians under the age of 40 from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and there was a heightened security presence in the streets with police deployed throughout the city.

Most of the gates leading to the mosque compound were closed, apart from the Lion, Council, Chain and Ablution Gates.

PA’s Ministry of Endowment said 5,000 Palestinians performed prayers at the mosque compound on Friday.

One Palestinian youth was detained at Damascus Gate following Friday prayers, while Israeli forces fired stun grenades in the Ras al-Amud and Silwan neighborhoods.