01:40 - Source: CNN
Spiral of violence grips the Middle East

Story highlights

NEW: Jerusalem's mayor accuses Palestinian Authority and Arab leaders of using lies to incite violence

It follows an upsurge in violence resulting in both Palestinian and Israeli deaths in the past week

CNN  — 

Jerusalem’s mayor is accusing the Palestinian Authority and Arab leaders of spurring the latest incidents of Israeli-Palestinian violence with “incitement and lies.”

Mayor Nir Barkat told CNN Wednesday that misinformation was being used to imply that Israel was trying to change the status quo at the Temple Mount, which he said “is nothing to do with the truth.”

The Palestinian Authority and other prominent Arab leaders were “using these incitements to have independent people take knives, butcher knives, kitchen knives and stab people and hurt people,” Barkat said.

Palestinian officials expressed anger after Israeli police announced Sunday they were preventing Muslim men under the age of 50 from attending prayers at the holy site in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary. The Jerusalem complex is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest site in Islam.

Police restricted access to the site as part of broader limits on access to the Old City after a Palestinian man killed two Israelis on a street in the historic neighborhood last week.

But on Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged calm at a gathering of the Palestine Liberation Organization as his government sought to avoid further bloodshed.

“We tell them (the Israelis) that we do not want either military or security escalation,” Abbas said from his compound in Ramallah. “Israel has to stop and accept our hand reached out for a political solution in a peaceful way and not other way.”

Related: Jerusalem police limit access to Old City

Asked Wednesday about photos that appeared to show him carrying a mini-assault rifle in Jerusalem a day earlier, Mayor Barkat rejected the idea that carrying guns incited more violence. He said those with licenses carried guns for safety and security.

Israel had an advantage, he said, in having many ex-military personnel “that know how to use guns, that know how to use them in a wise way and eliminate terror.”

“Just today we had a similar incident where a civilian, well-trained, armed with a pistol, was stabbed in the back. He turned around, used his pistol and eliminated the stabber,” Barkat said.

Upsurge in violence

Israeli police earlier said a 35-year-old Jewish man was “lightly wounded” after being stabbed by an Arab woman in the Old City of Jerusalem. The stabbing victim “managed to shoot the woman terrorist, who has been evacuated to hospital in serious condition,” spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

In another incident, police said an Israeli soldier was wounded after a male Palestinian suspect stabbed him and grabbed his weapon, “firing in all directions” in Kiryat Gat, south of Tel Aviv. The suspect ran into a nearby building and was “neutralized,” Samri said.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent said a shooting attack by Israeli settlers in Beit Sahour – a Palestinian town east of Bethlehem – left two Palestinians hospitalized with serious wounds Wednesday. One victim was shot with a live bullet in the chest and the other with rubber bullets in his feet, the aid agency said. Israeli police said they were aware of the incident.

Security measures

The rash of violence is the latest flare-up in an area where for decades many Palestinians have viewed the Israelis as an occupying force while, on the other side, Israel has been on guard for terrorist and other attacks.

It intensified after last Thursday’s fatal shooting of an Israeli couple – as their four children looked on – in the West Bank, after which Israeli authorities stepped up security measures.

On Sunday, Israel’s security cabinet expanded the use of administrative detention to apply to those participating in riots.

Administrative detention is a controversial practice that allows Israeli authorities to hold a person without charge or trial. It is usually applied to criminal suspects. It has rarely been used against protesters in recent years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also urged expedited passage of a law that would establish minimum punishments for minors (and their parents) who throw stones and Molotov cocktails.

“The police are going deeply into the Arab neighborhoods, which has not been done in the past,” Netanyahu said Monday. “We will demolish terrorists’ homes.

“We are allowing our forces to take strong action against those who throw rocks and firebombs. This is necessary in order to safeguard the security of Israeli citizens.”

On Tuesday, the government followed through on its promise to tear down the homes of two men accused of deadly attacks last year and sealed off the residence of a third man, according to a statement by the Israel Defense Forces.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the move, his office said, arguing that such demolitions would only “inflame tensions still further.”

When asked about fears of another Palestinian uprising, Jerusalem resident Ahmad Salameh told Reuters he didn’t think it would happen.

“I think no, because the people are tired,” he said. “The people are looking for how to earn a living, how to earn a living to feed their children.”

Tuesday violence

Clashes also broke out between young Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank Tuesday.

Hundreds of Palestinian youths hurled rocks at Israeli security forces in Bethlehem after the burial of 13-year-old Abdel Rahman Obeid Allah, a schoolboy reportedly shot and killed by Israeli security forces Monday.

Israeli forces responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live bullets that left at least five wounded, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Israeli authorities said its forces had dispersed riots near an Israeli military base in Bethlehem and did not report any injuries there.

“The rioters hurled IED’s, Molotov cocktails and rocks at Israeli civilians,” an Israeli military spokesperson, who was not named as a matter of policy, told CNN.

“Forces on scene recognized the danger and responded with riot dispersal means.”

Across Palestinian territories, at least 90 Palestinians suffered injuries, according to the Red Crescent. The Israel Defense Forces tweeted about two such cases – a 1½ year old child in Nablus hit by a rock thrown at an Israeli vehicle and a Palestinian man, struck by rocks near Hebron, was treated by Israeli troops.

CNN’s Michael Schwartz in Jerusalem contributed to this report.