Palestinian leader accuses Israel of religious war

The Palestinian president today accused Israel of provoking a "religious war" as new violence between the sides broke out in the West Bank, leaving a Palestinian man dead, amid mounting concerns that the long-running conflict is entering a new and dangerous phase.

Ramallah: The Palestinian president today accused Israel of provoking a "religious war" as new violence between the sides broke out in the West Bank, leaving a Palestinian man dead, amid mounting concerns that the long-running conflict is entering a new and dangerous phase.

Mahmoud Abbas blamed the latest tensions on a series of visits by Jewish worshippers to Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site.

The visits to the contested site have helped fan strife in a region already on edge following last summer's bloody war in the Gaza Strip and the earlier failure of US Secretary of State John Kerry's Mideast peace efforts.

Abbas' remarks -- at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat -- came as Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian demonstrator in clashes in the West Bank today.

The shooting happened a day after a Palestinian from the West Bank city of Nablus stabbed and killed a 20-year-old Israeli soldier at a crowded Tel Aviv train station and another Palestinian assailant stabbed three people at a bus stop next to a West Bank settlement, killing a 25-year-old Israeli woman and wounding two others.

Much of the recent unrest has stemmed from tensions surrounding the holy site in Jerusalem's Old City, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

It is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the gold-topped Dome of the Rock, the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. It is also revered as the location where the ancient Hebrew temples once stood and today is considered the most sacred place in Judaism.

Palestinians in east Jerusalem have carried out violent protests, alleging that Jewish zealots are secretly trying to gain control of the site. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as their capital.

In an address to thousands of people at his West Bank headquarters, Abbas accused Israel of trying to divide the mosque compound, comparing it to the experience of a holy site in the West Bank that was split between Jewish and Muslim sides after an Israeli settler gunned down 29 Muslim worshippers there 20 years ago.

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