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Netanyahu addresses Al-Aqsa protests and IDF crackdown

Benjamin Netanyahu says he will take strong steps against people who incite violence. The prime minister barred Israeli officials from visiting the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem in the wake of recent unrest.

Netanyahu said he saw no "magic solution" to current tensions. Israel's prime minister spoke at a news conference following riots in east Jerusalem and the West Bank and a spate of stabbing attacks targeting Israelis.

"We will prove that terror does not pay and we will defeat it," Netanyahu said.

Stabbings in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel's economic hub of Tel Aviv have left four Israelis dead and several wounded in recent days. Seven Palestinians were killed, at least three of whom had no role in the attacks - one was just 13. Israel has also demolished the homes of a pair of deceased men accused of being militants, though their families still lived in them.

The unrest has sparked fears of a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising. On Thursday, Israeli soldiers shot at least three people with live ammunition at the Shufat refugee camp and injured many others injured with rubber bullets and tear gas, the Palestinian Red Crescent reported. Medics treated more than 150 Palestinians for injuries sustained in clashes with authorities around the West Bank.

On Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he supported "peaceful popular resistance" and backed "those who are protecting Al-Aqsa mosque."

In a statement from Geneva on Thursday, the UN human rights chief appealed for calm, warning that "more bloodshed will only lead to more hatred on both sides." Zeid Raad al-Hussein called himself "deeply concerned at the increasing number of reported attacks" by both Israeli settlers and Palestinians. "The high number of casualties, in particular those resulting from the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces, raise concerns of excessive use of force," he said.

Third intifada?

Israeli officials were told to refrain from entering the Al-Aqsa compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount. Extremist groups slammed Netanyahu's instruction and called on far-right lawmakers to ignore it. Netanyahu also told police enforcing security at the holy site to bar both Jewish and Muslim members of the Knesset.

Visits to the site had increased during the three-week Jewish holiday season, which began on September 13 and ended on October 5. The period saw intense clashes between protesters and Israeli police and the killings of a handful of Israelis by terror attackers, and the deaths of several Palestinians at the hands of Israeli authorities.

The disputed site houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock Shrine, both sacred to Muslims, as well as the ruins of the biblical Jewish Temple. Pilgrimages to the mount ramp up during the three-week Jewish holiday season, which started with the New Year on September 13 and ended with the Tabernacles festival on Monday.

mkg/jr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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