Har Homa protesters overrun shrine

Palestinian demonstrators hurl-ed rocks at Israeli troops in Bethlehem and Jewish settlers moved into a Palestinian district in East Jerusalem yesterday further damaging the prospects for a peace agreement aimed at ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The riot started when 300 students from Bethlehem University held a march protesting at the construction of a Jewish township at Har Homa between Bethlehem and Jeru- salem. As they approached Rachel's Tomb, a heavily fortified Jewish shrine protected by Israeli troops, 40 Palestinian police tried to hold them back, but were overrun.

Sheltering behind a wall by a petrol station, the soldiers fired tear gas grenades, but appeared to be under orders not to fire live rounds. A few stones came skimming towards the troops and Palestinian boys raced forward to lob back the gas gren-ades. "Perfume from Beth- lehem," said an Israeli policeman as choking onlookers were enveloped by a cloud of gas.

Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, appeared to be trying to prevent protests against Har Homa turning violent, fearing the Palestinians might forfeit international support. Nabi Amir, an adviser to Mr Arafat, said on the Voice of Palestine: "The fruits of world support arrive gradually. It is thanks to such support we have come this far."

But there is a diminishing basis for co-operation or negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. A proposal by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, whereby the present interim phase of the Oslo accords, intended to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, would be dropped and a final agreement reached by the end of the year, was dimissed by Palestinian leaders.

In Jerusalem another development is likely to deepen Palestinian suspicions. Over- night, apparently with the know- ledge of Mr Netanyahu, five families belonging to the extreme settler organisation, El Ad, moved into a large house formerly occupied by Palestinians in the Silwan district of Jeru- salem. This is one of the most heavily-contested areas of the city, as it is only 300 yards from al Aqsa mosque and occupies the site of ancient Jerusalem captured by King David. "The settlers came at 1pm. They have not said a word to us," said Mohammed Abu Diab, a Palestinian who lives next door to the building taken by El Ad. Several Israeli men inside the house said they were from a security firm and would not speak. Later, Yigaal Canaan, the leader of El Ad, said: "This whole hill is part of ancient Jerusalem and our organisation's goal is for the whole hill to become Jewish."

He is not far from his aim. House after house in Silwan is sprouting an Israeli flag. Under the Labour government between 1992 and 1996, no Palestinian houses were taken over. Instead, El Ad and its sister organisation, Ateret Cohanim (Crown of the Priests), was the target of a government inquiry into how they had illegally received official funds to obtain Palestinian houses. But on the morning of Mr Netanyahu's election victory last May - even before it was confirmed - El Ad resumed its campaign.

The settlers have little sympathy for Palestinian occupants. Amir Ben David, 32, a settler born in the US, will move into a house above the biblical pool of Siloam, next week. He said: "There was a family here before, but the courts told them to leave. This is the City of David."

Mr Ben David does not think Jewish settlement should end with the City of David. "Those houses are built on the graves of Jews from the time of the Second Temple [destroyed by the Babylonians in 587BC]."

The prime minister's office said that it had known of the take-over by settlers in Silwan, but had not initiated it. In practice, however, El Ad cannot act without coordination with the armed security guards paid for by the government.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test