Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

US and Israel push to end East Jerusalem building row


New violence erupts in the West Bank

US and Israeli diplomats are trying to bridge divisions over Israeli building plans in occupied East Jerusalem, as clashes in the city have waned.

The Palestinians have pulled out of indirect talks because of the plan.

The US is awaiting Israel's response to its request for gestures to reassure the Palestinians.

Clashes on Tuesday between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli security forces have died down, but new violence began on Wednesday in the West Bank.

Overnight, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office welcomed comments by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissing claims that US-Israeli ties were in crisis.

'Warm remarks'

She had accused Israel of "insulting" and "deeply negative" behaviour after the Israelis announced they had pushed forward plans for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the region last week.

In her latest comment, she called the bond between the US and Israel "unshakeable", but also urged Israel and the Palestinians to prove their commitment to peace.

Mr Netanyahu's office said it appreciated her "warm remarks", but added that Israel had already proved its commitment to peace "in both word and deed".

Mr Netahyahu has apologised for the timing of the settlement announcement, but has stood by Israel's policy on Jewish building in Jerusalem.

Also on Tuesday, Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, denied comments widely quoted by Israeli media as saying that ties between the US and Israel were at their lowest point since 1975.

On Wednesday, movement restrictions on Palestinians, which had been in place for five days, were lifted as the previous days' clashes died down in Jerusalem.

But violence broke out in the village of Beita in the northern West Bank, as at least 100 Palestinians threw stones at Israeli security forces, who responded with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.

Clashes also took place at Qalandia checkpoint and Beit Anoun, near Hebron in the southern West Bank.

'Days of rage'

In Tuesday's unrest, the police said about 60 Palestinians had been arrested. Dozens of Palestinians and 15 police were injured, including one policeman who was shot in the hand.

The Islamist movement Hamas had called for a "day of rage" in defence of the Muslim holy site, the al-Aqsa mosque, in Jerusalem's Old City.

Palestinians were angered over Jewish right wingers' plans to enter the compound, which Jews call the Temple Mount, although police cancelled the event.

The reopening of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of the Old City also increased tensions, as did five days of Israeli security restrictions limiting access to the al-Aqsa mosque to women and men over the age of 50.

Palestinians are also enraged over Israel's continued building in East Jerusalem, where they want their future capital.

The international community considers East Jerusalem occupied territory. Building on occupied territory is illegal under international law.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, and later annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community.

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