Abbas warns of intifada risk after Jerusalem clashes

Jerusalem (AFP) - Palestinian president Mahmud 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's 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 UN General Assembly.

Jerusalem was calm on 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 named him as Dia al-Talahmeh, 21.

- Tight security in Jerusalem -

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 on Tuesday.

The Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday begins on 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.

- Support rises for new intifada -

Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, is also venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount and is considered the most sacred place in Judaism.

Muslims have been alarmed by an increase in visits by Jews to the site and fear rules governing the compound will be changed. Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray to avoid provoking tensions.

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

Israel seized east Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Hollande, after meeting Abbas on 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 organisers said the figure was similar to numbers seen ahead of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of Palestinians believe that Abbas, 80, should resign, according to the poll by the respected Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research.

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