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Israel Tightens Security as Quartet Demands Settlement Freeze

  • Robert Berger

Israel has imposed a security clampdown in Jerusalem amid new demands from the international community to halt settlement expansion.

Some 2,500 Israeli police and soldiers deployed in and around Jerusalem's Old City amid fears of Palestinian unrest after Friday Muslim prayers. Restrictions were imposed on entry into the Mosque of al-Aqsa, the site Jews call the Temple Mount. Palestinian men under the age of 50 were barred from entering the compound, which is a flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Because of the restrictions, some Palestinians held prayers on the streets as armed Israeli soldiers looked on. There were sporadic, low-level clashes in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank.

Tension has been running high since last week, when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 homes in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state. The announcement was made during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, angering U.S. officials.

The United States has demanded that Israel cancel the construction project so peace talks can resume. The demand was repeated in Moscow at a meeting of the Quartet of world powers mediating the Middle East conflict: the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

"The Quartet urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem," said Ban Ki-moon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told parliament this week that no Israeli government has ever limited construction in East Jerusalem. Israeli analyst Mitchell Barak.

"There's been a general consensus: According to what Israelis think, East Jerusalem is not really up for discussion when it comes to settlements; and building apartments in all of these places is considered the right of Israel to settle people in its capital," said Mitchell Barak.

But Mr. Netanyahu phoned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and indicated that there might be room for flexibility. The prime minister will meet Clinton in Washington next week to try to resolve the dispute.