Saturday, January 8, 2011

Violence Rocks Temple Mount in Jerusalem

An Israeli security guard responding to a call for help was ambushed by a mob of Palestinians who barricaded the street and threw rocks at him. Fearing for his life, the guard shot and killed a 35-year-old man with a long criminal history. Riots then broke out across the Holy City, leading to Israeli security forces being called to the Temple Mount.

In what may have been a coordinated attack designed to undermine the ongoing peace talks, a mob of Palestinians attacked an Israeli security guard who was responding to a call for help from a Jewish family. After barricading the road, the mob attacked his car with rocks and Molotov cocktails. Fearing for his life, the guard fired a warning shot and then shot and killed one Palestinian, who authorities said was "known to the police” and had a long criminal record.

Gangs of Palestinians roared through the streets of Jerusalem, attacking buses and cars and throwing stones at responding police officers. One Israeli man was stabbed and is in the hospital in "moderate condition,” and a number of others were injured by rocks or broken glass. Several police cars and other official vehicles were burned.

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered around the home of the dead assailant and followed the body to a cemetery near the Mount of Olives. From there, the violence spread to the Temple Mount. After violent clashes with the police, a number of the Palestinians fled for refuge inside the Al-Aska Mosque on the Temple Mount, where Israeli soldiers would not follow.

The outbreak of violence was the worst in months, underlining the fragile nature of peace negotiations and bringing into question the ability of the Palestinian Authority (PA) government to deliver on any bargains they might make during the talks. If the PA is interested in quelling outbreaks of violence—an assertion that is certainly open to question— it is not at all clear that they could do so.

Palestinian President Abbas clings to power now two years after his term in office expired because of an agreement with the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia—the so-called Quartet. The agreement was reached in fear of who would be elected to replace him if elections were held as had been scheduled. He is wildly unpopular among the people he supposedly leads, and his own commitment to the peace process is the subject of much doubt among outside observers.

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