Do J'lem clashes, Gaza rockets portend worse violence?

Do Jlem clashes, Gaza r

old city arrest arab 248 88 (photo credit: )
old city arrest arab 248 88
(photo credit: )
The Muslim Quarter was quiet on Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after clashes between Jerusalem Arabs and border policemen - which began on the Temple Mount Sunday and spread to the surrounding neighborhoods, continuing through Monday night. The recent renewed rocket fire from the Gaza Strip has been rattling nerves in the South as well. But defense officials said that they did not fear a new wave of Palestinian violence on the level of the second intifada. The clashes in Jerusalem and the rocket attacks from Gaza were not connected, they said. Police on Tuesday continued to make arrests connected to the capital disturbances, which took place in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan and Isawiya and in the alleys of the Muslim Quarter throughout Yom Kippur, after a group of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount were stoned by Muslim worshipers on Sunday morning. During the ensuing rioting, 18 police officers and 15 rioters were injured. Police fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd in that incident. Ikram al-Sabri, a member of the Islamic High Council of Palestine, was among those arrested on Tuesday, on suspicion of involvement in the Temple Mount riots, and police said more arrests were expected. "There were a lot of police officers here on Sunday, and they closed this whole area off," Hamze, who works at a restaurant in the Muslim Quarter, near the entrance to the Temple Mount, said on Tuesday. "It was pretty chaotic, and there were problems here yesterday, too - the police were out in full force and a lot of guys were throwing rocks at them. "Whenever Jews go up to the Temple Mount, there's problems - just look at what happened after Sharon was there [on September 28, 2000]," he said. Some claim that visit by the then-Likud chairman and opposition leader sparked the second intifada. "There's talk on the street of a third intifada," Hamze continued. "But whenever I hear my friends say that, I tell them, 'What's the point? The Israelis already control al-Aksa - any time I want to go there, it's up to the police if I can go in or not." Shopkeepers could be overheard talking about the unrest in Silwan, where two firebombs were thrown at homes belonging to Jews on Monday, and where on Tuesday, an Arab teenager was arrested by Border Police officers after throwing rocks at a Jewish resident. Others were less talkative, with one shopkeeper telling The Jerusalem Post, "I don't know about any problems, I'm just trying to bring food home to my children." But the heavy police presence was felt, along with a visibly beefed-up force of private security guards, as they pushed through myriad tourists who seemed to have little clue about the events that had transpired nearby over the fast day. "That happened here yesterday?" asked a woman from Brooklyn, who was visiting the Old City with her family. "Stop telling me about it, you're scaring me." Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch commented on the disturbances during a tour of Judea and Samaria on Tuesday, saying law enforcement would respond to future unrest in the capital with "a harsh and uncompromising hand." "I view these incidents with the utmost severity," Aharonovitch said. Meanwhile, defense officials on Tuesday blamed small terrorist organizations seeking to disrupt the reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah for the increased fire from Gaza in recent days. According to the officials, Hamas is continuing with its policy of refraining from allowing its operatives to fire rockets into Israel - a policy that went into effect following Operation Cast Lead earlier this year. Since Friday, some 10 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at the South, including two Kassam rockets on Tuesday evening - one in the Eshkol region and one south of Ashkelon. On Monday, the air force bombed a rocket launcher following a Kassam attack the previous night. Earlier in the day, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on troops along the border, near Kerem Shalom. "Hamas is very careful not to allow for the situation to escalate," said MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Hamas suffered a heavy blow during Cast Lead and while there is sometimes rocket fire from global jihad elements and other militant groups, Hamas is doing its utmost to prevent the attacks." Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.