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Clash in east Jerusalem ahead of Kerry talks with Abbas


Jerusalem (Nov. 13, 2014): Clashes erupted in east Jerusalem on Thursday ahead of talks between Washington's top diplomat and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on easing a surge of violence across Israel and the occupied territories.

As Abbas prepared to meet secretary of state John Kerry in Amman for talks focused on rising tensions in annexed east Jerusalem, particularly at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, police clashed with Palestinian demonstrators in the city's Issawiya neighborhood.

Around 100 residents, among them schoolchildren, tried to block the main road in protest after police blocked off several of the neighborhood's entrances with concrete blocks.

Police fired tear gas, percussion bombs and rubber bullets to break up the rally.

Months of unrest have escalated in recent days, spreading from annexed east Jerusalem to the occupied West Bank and Arab communities across Israel, and raising fears of a new Palestinian uprising.

The meeting between Abbas and Kerry, who arrived in Jordan late yesterday, comes a day after Israel approved plans for another 200 settler homes in a settlement neighborhood of east Jerusalem in a move sharply criticised by Washington.

Much of the unrest in Jerusalem has been fueled by Israeli moves to step up settlement activity in the city and by religious tensions at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.

The Palestinians have been deeply angered by a campaign by far-right Jewish fringe groups to secure prayer rights at the shrine, although Israel has repeatedly stressed it has no plans to change the decades old status quo, under which Jews can visit but not pray there.

Abbas's spokesman said he would tell Kerry of the Palestinians' growing concerns over Israel's actions, particularly in Jerusalem.

In a letter to the UN security council sent on Wednesday, Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour demanded international intervention.

"The flagrant disrespect for this holy site and for Palestinian worshippers, marked by daily incursions into the compound ... must be taken seriously by the international community as they are stoking religious sensitivities and aggravating tensions, with the potential to spiral out of control," he said.

Clashes at the mosque compound have drawn sharp criticism from both the Palestinians and Jordan, which has custodial rights at the shrine.

Ahead of Kerry's arrival, King Abdullah met Abbas in Amman for talks in which he expressed his "total rejection" of Israel's "repeated aggressions and provocations in Jerusalem," a palace statement said.