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'Dangerous developments' at Aqsa spark Arab ministers meeting

Arab League to discuss Israeli escalations at mosque, settlement growth and extra-judicial arrests of Palestinians, says chief Palestinian negotiator
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound has been a flashpoint for violence (AFP)

Arab League foreign ministers will meet in Cairo early next month to discuss clashes involving Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian official said on Monday.

At least 17 protesters were injured at the mosque on Sunday after Israeli police stormed the area to allow Jewish worshippers, including an Israeli minister, to enter, according to MEE's contributor in Jerusalem.

Palestinian news agency Maan reported that Israeli police fired rubber-coated steel bullets inside the mosque.

Many of the protesters injured were wounded by ammunition and by tear gas inhalation. Israeli news sites reported that four officers were also injured in the clash.

Last fall, repeated clashes rocked Jerusalem after Israeli authorities closed al-Aqsa Mosque after an assassination attempt against a prominent right-wing Jewish activist. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the closure "a declaration of war".

The closure of the mosque sparked huge outcry and a number of lone-wolf attacks in Jerusalem. Tensions subsided somewhat after Jordan's King Abdullah intervened to call for calm.

The recent "dangerous developments" at the mosque - as Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat described the latest clashes - will be discussed by foreign minister from 15 Arab states on 5 August, 

The ministers will also cover "Israeli escalations at Al-Aqsa mosque, continuing settlements, extra-judicial arrests and assassinations and forced displacements" of Palestinians, he said after meeting the league's chief Nabil Al-Arabi at its Cairo headquarters.

Erakat said the meeting had been called by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

The 15 ministers represent Arab countries involved in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that calls for an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories in exchange for full normalisation of ties with the Arab world.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been comatose since a failed US diplomatic effort in April last year, and a war in the Gaza Strip last summer killed about 2,200 Palestinians.

The meeting will also discuss Palestinian reconciliation efforts and a new Arab bid to end the Israeli occupation through the UN, Erakat said.

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