(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday he wanted to avoid a violent escalation with Israel, his most direct comments since unrest has spread and provoked fears of a new uprising.
His comments came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged a crackdown and Israel, in a show of force, demolished the homes of two Palestinians who carried out attacks last year.
More clashes also erupted yesterday, including in Bethlehem following the funeral of a 13-year-old killed by Israeli soldiers in rioting outside the city.
"We don't want a military and security escalation with Israel," Abbas said at a meeting of Palestinian officials, according to official news agency Wafa.
"We are telling our security forces, our political movements, that we do not want an escalation, but that we want to protect ourselves."
Abbas's intentions were unclear before his recent comments, particularly following his UN General Assembly speech last week in which he declared he was no longer bound by accords with Israel.
But the question remains of whether Palestinian youths frustrated with both Abbas's leadership and Israel's right-wing government will heed his appeals.
Yesterday's demolitions came with Netanyahu under increasing pressure from right-wing members of his coalition, which holds only a one-seat parliamentary majority, as clashes have spread following the killing of four Israelis.
The spike in violence has brought international calls for calm, with concerns the unrest could spin out of control and with memories of previous Palestinian uprisings still fresh.
The houses destroyed were the former homes of Ghassan Abu Jamal and Mohamed Jaabis, the military said. They had been under demolition orders after the men attacked Israelis last year.
Armed with meat cleavers and a pistol, Abu Jamal and his cousin Uday Abu Jamal killed four rabbis and a policeman before being shot dead in November 2014.
Jaabis rammed an earthmover into a bus in August 2014, killing an Israeli and wounding several others before police shot him dead.
An AFP journalist saw the gutted inside of a house in East Jerusalem that witnesses said was Abu Jamal's former home.
Yasser Abdu, 40, a neighbour and friend of the Abu Jamals, accused Israel of a "policy of collective punishment".
The pre-dawn demolition blast blew out the interior of the structure but the supporting pillars remained intact. It also damaged other apartments in the building and surrounding structures.
Witnesses said police and other authorities arrived at midnight, locking down the area before drilling and planting the explosives.
A room was also sealed off at the former home of Muataz Hijazi, who in October 2014 tried to gun down a right-wing Jewish activist, critically wounding him. Hijazi was shot dead the next morning in a police raid.
The demolitions had been challenged in Israel's top court, which ultimately approved them.
It also approved sealing the Hijazi room but not demolishing the structure, as his attack "did not ultimately result in the loss of human life".
The punitive measures come after clashes have spread in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in recent days following the killing of four Israelis, including a Jewish settler couple.
Israeli security forces said five men they had arrested over the couple's killilng were members of Hamas. Netanyahu visited the site of the killings yesterday and announced cameras would be set up along West Bank roads.
On Monday, troops shot dead 13-year-old Palestinian Abdel Rahman Abdullah-the second killing of a Palestinian in 24 hours-as dozens were wounded in fresh clashes.
After his funeral yesterday, about 100 masked youths in Palestinian keffiyehs stoned soldiers who responded with teargas and rubber bullets.
"My son went to school like all the other kids, then he finished school but he never came back home," his mother Dalal said before the burial, accusing soldiers of shooting him for no reason.
Netanyahu has announced new measures including reinforcing security forces, expediting demolition of suspected attackers' homes and more detentions without trial.
Rules for when security forces can open fire have also been loosened.
Israel lifted rare restrictions yesterday barring Palestinians from Jerusalem's Old City, where only residents, business owners and students were allowed in for two days.
The clampdown was imposed after two Israelis were stabbed to death there and as Jews wrapped up celebrations of their Sukkot holiday, which ended on Monday night.
Israel will also lift temporary restrictions on Muslim worship at the Al Aqsa mosque compound, police said yesterday.
"So far the decision is to return to normal procedures, with no restrictions on entry of worshippers," spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement, warning the decision could change if security concerns dictated it.
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