Jerusalem police on alert after days of West Bank clashes



Jerusalem: Israel's police deployed reinforcements in Jerusalem on Friday, fearing days of violent protests in the West Bank could spread to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound after weekly Muslim prayers.

"There is heightened security in and around the Old City. Extra police officers from different areas have been brought in to prevent any incidents from occurring today," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told a news agency.

Access by Palestinian men to the compound, which houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, had been limited to those over the age of 50 and with Israeli-issued Jerusalem residency cards. There were no restrictions on women.

"We received indications that there would be incidents on the Temple Mount immediately after prayers," Rosenfeld added, using the Jewish name for the compound.

Clashes rocked the West Bank for a third day on Thursday as thousands attended the funerals of a prisoner who died in Israeli custody on Tuesday and of two teenagers shot dead by Israeli troops in subsequent clashes.

Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets in the southern city of Hebron after furious crowds lined the streets to pay their respects to 63-year-old Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh.

Abu Hamdiyeh, who had served 10 years of a life term for attempted murder, died of throat cancer on Tuesday in hospital, sparking tensions among Palestinians whose leaders accused Israel of medical negligence.

As news of his death spread, protests that erupted in several places quickly turned into clashes with the Israeli Army, notably in Hebron, Abu Hamdiyeh's hometown.

Near the northern village of Anabta close to Tulkarem, the clashes turned deadly on Wednesday, with two teenagers shot dead by troops.

Tony Blair, the envoy of the peacemaking quartet, said on Friday he was "deeply troubled by the loss of life".

"I am concerned about the deteriorating security situation on the ground," he said in a statement. "The situation in the West Bank is very volatile, with emotions running high."

AFP