Middle East

Israel to destroy homes of Palestinian Jerusalem attackers

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man looks into the vehicle of a Palestinian motorist who rammed into pedestrians near the scene of the attack in Jerusalem November 5, 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jerusalem has seen two car attacks on pedestrians in as many weeks

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered that the homes of Palestinians who have carried out attacks in Jerusalem be demolished.

The decision, taken on Thursday, follows weeks of unrest in the city.

Four people have now died in two separate attacks on pedestrians in Jerusalem in the past two weeks.

The latest incident occurred on Wednesday when a Palestinian rammed his van into people waiting at a tram station, then attacked police.

One person was killed at the scene and another died from his injuries on Friday morning.

Hamas said it carried out the attack, while Israel blamed Hamas and the Fatah faction of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, both of which formed a unity government earlier this year.

Meanwhile several small explosions in Gaza targeted the homes and cars of Fatah officials.

No-one was hurt, but Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah cancelled his trip to Gaza because of the attacks.

Vehicle attacks

A spokesman for Mr Netanyahu said he had met with security officials on Thursday evening to discuss measures to restore calm in Jerusalem.

"Among those discussed was the sealing or demolition of terrorists' homes," the spokesman said.

One of Israel's two chief rabbis, Yitzhak Yosef, urged Israelis to stop attempting to enter parts of Jerusalem's main holy site, the al-Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount complex, in order to avoid increased tension.

"We need to stop this, only then will the blood of the people of Israel not be spilt," he said.

Israeli police said around 15,000 Muslims performed Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa mosque, which is part of the holy complex. Men under the age of 35 were prevented from entering - a measure police say is for security - with many praying on the street outside.

No trouble was reported inside the mosque complex, but clashes did break out in parts of East Jerusalem on Friday morning, including near the Shuafat neighbourhood.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Palestinian protesters threw rocks at Israeli police, who responded with tear gas
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Men under the age of 35 were barred from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque, leading some to pray outside

The man declared dead on Friday after Wednesday's van attack was identified as 17-year-old Shalom Baadani, a Jewish seminary student.

He was hit by the van driven by Ibrahim al-Akari, from Shuafat refugee camp in the east of the city, police said.

Akari's Facebook page states that he is a member of Hamas, and the Twitter account for the group's armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, described him as a member and a martyr.

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Media captionTension is growing around Jerusalem's holy compound - Yolande Knell examines the issues

Hamas said it had carried out the Jerusalem attack in revenge for Israel's actions around the al-Aqsa mosque, which is part the al-Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound.

A 38-year-old Israeli Druze border policeman, Jaddan Assad, was also killed in the incident - the city's second attack by a Palestinian with a vehicle in two weeks.

A baby girl and an Ecuadorian woman were killed in the previous attack, carried out by a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Israeli Druze border policeman Jaddan Assad was the first person killed in the van attack on Wednesday

Wednesday's attack came hours after clashes at the holy site, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, and Jews as the Temple Mount. The al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, and the compound the holiest site in Judaism.

Tensions have risen in the city in recent weeks, and access to the compound has been intermittently restricted, with Israeli police at times barring young male Muslim worshippers from entering the site for security reasons.

The fate of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while Israel regards the whole of Jerusalem as its "eternal and indivisible capital".

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1980 in a move not recognised internationally.