03/16/2010, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Palestinian ‘day of rage’ turns violent

Israeli police fire rubber bullets and tear gas against stone-throwing protesters. About 40 people are hurt, 25 are detained. Hamas organises protest in response to the opening of a synagogue near al-Aqsa Mosque. Sources tell AsiaNews that conflict is sliding towards religious warfare.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Some 25 Palestinians and a rightwing Jewish militant, who was trying to get to the Temple Mount, were arrested. East Jerusalem hospital treated about 40 Palestinians for injuries. Clashes broke out on the "day of rage" Hamas declared to protest Israel's consecration of the Hurva synagogue in the Old City. The opening of a synagogue is seen by many Palestinians as the latest example of Israel’s attempt to ensure that East Jerusalem does not become the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Sources in Jerusalem told AsiaNews that what is going on is a “religious war” that “no one wants to admit.” The real situation is emerging. Israel’s plan to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem and the opening of the Hurva Synagogue (near the al-Aqsa Mosque) “are a provocation” to put “pressures on the Muslim camp.”

Israel does not want to see the birth of a Palestinian state, the source told AsiaNews. It is happy to see the Palestinian camp divided between Fatah and Hamas.

“Palestinians are depressed and desperate,” the source said. “I don’t know if they will have the strength to launch a third intifada.”

Thousands however heeded Hamas’ call for a ‘day of rage’ against the opening of a synagogue in an area claimed by both sides.

“This synagogue will be a prelude to violence and religious fanaticism and extremism,” said Hatem Abdel Qader, Fatah Jerusalem spokesman.

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister said that Jewish settlement activity would continue in the holy city.

For a number of international analysts, there seems to be an impasse, if Mr Netanyahu caves in and cancels the new settlements, the stability of his government may be in doubt; if he does not, peace talks are dead in the water.

For now, US Middle East special envoy George Mitchell will travel to region, but he has delayed his visit to Israel. The decision is unrelated to the issue of settlements, according to Washington. The US Embassy in Israel said the visit would occur after the Mideast Quartet (United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia) meets in Moscow.

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