Israeli soldiers have shot dead a Palestinian during clashes in the West Bank. The Palestinian president has blamed Israel for the recent wave of violence, as Palestinians mark 10 years since Yasser Arafat's death.
Mahmoud Abbas told crowds gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Tuesday that Israel "was leading the region and the world to a destructive religious war."
Speaking before thousands of people in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, Abbas said a series of recent violent confrontations had been triggered by Israel letting Jewish worshippers visit the contested al-Aqsa site and demands by radical Jews for the right to pray there.
"We call on you to keep your settlers and extremists away from al-Aqsa. They should not be allowed to enter," Abbas said.
In the latest deadly incident on Tuesday, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian during clashes near Hebron in the West Bank. Military sources said soldiers shot the man after they came under attack by a crowd pelting petrol bombs and stones.
Thousands of police were deployed on Tuesday as Palestinians held ceremonies and marches to honor their leader Arafat, who died on November 11, 2004, at the age of 75.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said several police units had been mobilized in major Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and were being deployed "in public places."
Security was heightened after two separate attacks on Monday in which Palestinian assailants fatally stabbed a 20-year-old Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv and a woman in the West Bank. On Saturday, Israeli police shot dead a young Israeli man, sparking violent stone-throwing protests in several Arab towns. Last week a Palestinian ploughed his car into pedestrians in Jerusalem, killing two Israelis before he was fatally shot by police.
Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis have been running high following the 50-day war in the Gaza Strip over the summer, which left more than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis dead, and Israel's continued building of Jewish settlements in occupied areas.
Hamas blamed for explosions
During Tuesday's speech, Abbas also blamed Hamas - the Islamist group which controls Gaza - for a series of bomb blasts targeting senior officials from his Fatah party on Friday. The attacks led to the cancellation of a Gaza event to honor Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and founder of Fatah.
"Those who caused the explosions in Gaza are the leaders of Hamas - they are responsible," Abbas said, and accused the rival group of trying "to sabotage and destroy the Palestinian national project."
Hamas and Fatah agreed in April to form a unity government as part of an effort bridge political divisions dating back seven years, when Hamas assumed control of Gaza following a civil war with Fatah.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum dismissed Abbas's comments as "partisan and despicable."
nm/es (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)