US Urges Restraint in Israeli-PA Clashes

July 7, 2008 - 8:08 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Washington urged Israelis and the Palestinians to show restraint Sunday as Palestinian rioting in and around Jerusalem continued for the fourth straight day, sparking the worst violence between the two sides in four years.

Violence also spread to several Israeli Arab towns throughout northern Israel.

Conflicting reports of the dead and wounded have indicated that at least seven and possibly as many as 28 Palestinians have been killed throughout the disputed territories. Additionally, between 200 and 750 people have been wounded since violence erupted on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem last Thursday.

According to Israeli security forces, another border policeman was killed on Sunday bringing to three the number of Israeli security forces killed in less than a week. About 62 Israeli soldiers and policemen have been wounded in the violence over the last four days.

One Israeli Arab reportedly was killed Sunday and at least 70 wounded, including the mayor of one Israeli Arab town, in rioting there. One main Israeli highway was closed to traffic because of rock-throwing violence.

The Israeli army brought in attack helicopters and tanks in some areas in an attempt to stop the shooting at Israeli forces.

Palestinian policemen have taken an active part in the fighting, shooting at Israeli troops and engaging in fierce firefights instead of acting to quell the violence. State-run Palestinian radio also has played a part in encouraging the rioters to continue to fight.

The fighting resumed Sunday despite a truce that was reportedly agreed upon Saturday night.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak spoke with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat Saturday evening, and they agreed that top officials from both sides would be in constant contact in an attempt to restore calm.

Israel has been engaging in "intensive diplomatic contacts" since Saturday evening, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Media Advisor issued on Sunday.

"Israel unequivocally made it clear that the Palestinian Authority, and its head, must put an end to the violence via a determined and aggressive effort," the statement said.

An absence of such an effort, the statement added, could force an escalation in the situation. Israel vowed to continue to do everything required to protect its citizens.

An earlier statement said that Israel would not "allow the violence to serve as a negotiating tool."

Washington urged Israel and the Palestinians to "exercise restraint and above all to avoid any action that provokes tension in this area."

"The events of the past few days underscore the obvious: Israel and the Palestinians need to focus their efforts intensively on reaching an agreement and cooperation with one another in a practical fashion until a permanent status accord is reached," a State Department spokesman in Tel Aviv said on Sunday.

The US extended its condolences to the families of those killed and wounded in the violence and called on both sides "to take steps to restore calm and avoid any actions and words that further inflame the situation."

Yasser Abed Rabbo called on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to make an emergency trip to the region. However, Albright has no plans to travel to the region, according to a state department spokesman.

The Palestinians have called this wave of violence the "al-Aksa intifada" (rebellion) because they say that it was a spontaneous outbreak of violence triggered by the visit of opposition Likud leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount last Thursday.

However, Israeli security forces have charged that this was not a "spontaneous" outbreak but a well-planned attack just waiting to happen.