Abbas warns of intifada risk after clashes

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Tuesday of the risk of a new intifada after clashes last week at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and with tensions rising as Jews and Muslims celebrate major religious holidays. Abbas’ comments after meeting French President Francois Hollande in Paris came with peace efforts at a standstill for more than a year and a recent poll showing a majority of Palestinians support a return to an armed uprising.

“What is happening is very dangerous,” Abbas said, while warning against “an intifada [uprising] which we don’t want.”

The Palestinian leader, whose recent moves have stirred speculation over whether he intends to step down soon, plans to travel to Russia after Paris as he seeks to rally support before his upcoming speech at the U.N. General Assembly.

Jerusalem was calm Tuesday but under tight security, with thousands of police officers deployed and authorities closing off the city to residents of the occupied West Bank.

Unrest, however, hit the flashpoint Hebron area in the southern West Bank, with Israeli forces shooting a Palestinian woman who allegedly tried to stab a soldier. The 18-year-old later died from her wounds, her father said.

Overnight in the village of Dura near Hebron, another Palestinian was killed by an explosive device he intended to toss at a military vehicle, an Israeli military spokeswoman said. Residents provided a similar account.

Palestinian security officials, however, said he was shot dead by Israeli troops and identified him as Dia al-Talahmeh, 21.

Hundreds later gathered for his funeral in the village while declaring him a “martyr,” with his body wrapped in a flag for militant group Islamic Jihad. “I am very proud of my son. I hope out of every Palestinian house, a martyr will emerge,” said his mother, who declined to provide her name.

The army spokeswoman said a patrol had been deployed to clear stones blocking a road outside Hebron when the incident occurred. “The soldiers heard an explosion and during a search of the sector they found the body of a Palestinian killed by the explosive device he intended to throw at one of our vehicles,” she said.

Tensions have been running high ahead of the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday which begins at sundown Tuesday. The Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday begins Wednesday evening and continues until Sunday.

Israel has deployed thousands of police in Jerusalem and shut it off from the West Bank, with checkpoints closed for the holiday as in previous years.

There were also age restrictions on Muslims entering the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, with men under 40 prohibited. Israeli authorities implement such age restrictions when tensions are high in a bid to avoid violence.

Last week’s clashes occurred as Jews celebrated their New Year, or Rosh Hashanah. Police said they raided the Al-Aqsa compound to stop youths who had barricaded themselves inside the mosque from disrupting visits by Jews and tourists.

Clashes broke out during the raids, with protesters throwing fireworks, stones and other objects at police, who fired stun grenades.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly he is committed to the status quo at the site.

Hollande, after meeting Abbas Tuesday, called for “peace, calm and the respect of principles” at the Al-Aqsa compound.

A poll out this week showed 57 percent of Palestinians support a return to an armed intifada in the absence of peace negotiations, up from 49 percent three months ago. Poll organizers said the figure was similar to numbers seen ahead of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000.