Ramallah: Stone-throwing protests erupted across the West Bank and Gaza and assailants firebombed a site revered by Jews as the tomb of biblical Joseph on a "day of rage" against Israel.
Four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire yesterday, including a labourer disguised as a journalist who stabbed an Israeli soldier.
The UN Security Council convened an emergency meeting to discuss the escalation, which has been marked by a spate of Palestinian stabbing attacks and an Israeli security crackdown. Troops manned roadblocks in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, a centre of unrest.
The violence comes at a time when a possible partition of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean into two states Palestine alongside Israel is fading.
This has left many Palestinians frustrated because all paths to independence appear blocked. The tensions have also been stoked by Palestinian fears that Israel is trying to expand its presence at a major Muslim-run shrine in Jerusalem, a claim Israel has denied.
Taye-Brook Zerihoun, a senior UN official, told the Security Council that Israel's long rule over the Palestinians and diminishing prospects for achieving a Palestinian state have transformed "long-simmering Palestinian anger into outright rage." The current crisis cannot be resolved by security measures alone, Zerihoun warned.
Israel's new UN ambassador, Danny Danon, accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of "dangerous incitement" against Israel with what he called "hate-filled speech," including claims that Israel is trying to change the status quo at the hilltop Jerusalem compound.
Over the past month, eight Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, most of them stabbings. During the same period, 36 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire 15 labelled by Israel as attackers, and the others in clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops.
Most of the attacks on Israelis were carried out by Palestinians with no known ties to militant groups. Palestinian factions, including Abbas' Fatah and its rival, the Islamic militant Hamas, have mainly been involved in organising stone-throwing protests in the West Bank and on the Israel-Gaza border.