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Abbas denounces 'aggression' against Palestinians as violence spikes

Abbas' speech follows Israeli checkpoints in East Jerusalem and a wave of violence
From his headquarters, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said 'only Palestinians and Muslims' have the rights to Al-Aqsa

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the current escalation of violence in Israel-Palestine on Wednesday from his headquarters in Ramallah, focusing on East Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

“The aggression against our people and holy areas has increased in a manner that disrupts the peace and quiet and requires international intervention,” Abbas said during an event to commemorate the Islamic New Year.

“Only we have rights to Al-Aqsa as Palestinians and Muslims, and no one else has any rights there,” he said.

Israel set up checkpoints on Wednesday in non-settlement areas of occupied East Jerusalem and mobilised hundreds of soldiers as it struggled to stop attacks that have raised fears of a full-blown uprising.

Hours after the first roadblocks were erected, two more knife attacks hit Jerusalem, one outside the Old City and another near the crowded central bus station during rush hour.

In his speech, Abbas referred to the “execution” of an alleged Palestinian attacker in the Pisgat Zeev settlement of East Jerusalem, saying: “We will not agree to continue the situation on our land, and not the policy of occupation and aggression by Israel and its settlers, who commit terror against our people, our homes, our trees, our holy places, and who execute our children in cold blood, as they did to the child Ahmed Mansara and other children in Jerusalem and other places. We will continue our national struggle which is based on self-defence.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office responded to Abbas’ remarks, calling his statements “incitement and lies. The teenager he’s referring to is alive and hospitalised at Hadassah after he stabbed an Israeli child who was riding his bicycle. While Israel is maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount (the Jewish name for the Al-Aqsa compound), Abu Mazen (Abbas), with his inciting remarks, is cynically using religion and thus causing acts of terror.”

The first of Wednesday's attacks occurred when a man, reportedly a 20-year-old from the West Bank city of Hebron, tried to stab a security guard at an entrance to the Old City but was shot dead before harming anyone.

The other saw a 23-year-old Palestinian stab and moderately wound a woman of around 70 before being shot dead by police.

The attack sparked panic among commuters.

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under immense pressure to halt the violence and frustrated Palestinian youths defying attempts to restore calm, police said 300 Israeli soldiers were joining their patrols.

The government also announced further drastic measures, including easing firearms laws for Israelis and stripping alleged attackers from East Jerusalem of their residency permits. 

In Washington, a spokesman said US Secretary of State John Kerry planned to travel to the Middle East soon to seek a return to calm between the sides. 

A wave of mainly stabbing attacks by Palestinians has spread fear in Israel, while a gun-and-knife attack on a Jerusalem bus on Tuesday killed two people and led to outrage among Israelis.

A third Israeli was killed in Jerusalem on Tuesday when a Palestinian attacker rammed his car into pedestrians then exited with a knife, making it the city's bloodiest day in the current wave of unrest.

All three Palestinian suspects in the two incidents were from East Jerusalem, and two were shot dead.

The move to install checkpoints followed a decision by Netanyahu's security cabinet overnight authorising police to seal off or impose a curfew on parts of Jerusalem.

The upsurge in violence that began on 1 October has led some to warn of the risk of a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Seven Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded.

At least 30 Palestinians have died, the majority of them protesters, some of them youth. Hundreds have been wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces.

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