. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moslem Leaders Quell Arab Protest

JERUSALEM -- Moslem clergy stopped protests after Friday prayers at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem where extra police were deployed to prevent a renewal of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has killed 73 people.


As the first youth shouted Allahu Akbar -- God is Greatest -- religious officials and Palestinian legislators moved in to nip any demonstration in the bud.


Palestinian police kept the lid on protests in other parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip ahead of U.S.-mediated talks with Israel on Sunday. More than 3,000 police were deployed in Arab East Jerusalem ahead of prayers. Unlike last week, police did not storm the mosque complex, Islam's third holiest site, as soon as the first rock flew. Last week they shot dead three Palestinians there.


Police said a few stones were hurled. Palestinians denied this. Police briefly removed Jewish worshippers from the Wailing Wall below the mosque as a precaution.


The Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement had called for "total confrontations" with Israeli forces and settlers after Friday prayers throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


But Palestinian areas were largely quiet. Israel has ringed PLO-ruled towns with tanks and prevented Palestinians from travelling in the West Bank and Gaza. The army moved some tanks out of sight of the PLO-ruled West Bank town of Tulkarm on Friday.


"It is a step to calm the situation and to help the next round of negotiations," Tulkarm's PLO governor Izzadine al-Sharqya said.


Since last week, gunbattles and clashes have claimed the lives of 58 Arabs and 15 Israeli soldiers. The violence was sparked by Israel's opening of an archaeological tunnel beside al-Aqsa complex, a site holy to Moslems and Jews.


PLO officials said President Yasser Arafat had ordered his 30,000-strong police to keep order ahead of the talks on restarting Palestinian self-rule.


The decision to hold the talks on Sunday at the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel was the main achievement of an emergency White House summit this week to end the violence. Israelis have called the meeting with President Bill Clinton a success, Palestinians deemed it a flop. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appealed to Palestinians not to lose hope.


Israeli officials have hinted at "confidence-building measures" ahead of the talks such as easing the virtual siege of Palestinian areas. Israeli and PLO officials agreed Friday to re-open the Karni crossing for commercial vehicles in Gaza next week.


"On Monday, Palestinian dealers can import and export through the terminal but in small amounts," Hisham Desooki, a security chief at Karni said. Israel controls all borders of the PLO-ruled areas.


"I ask you, don't go into mourning. Don't lose hope," Netanyahu said on Israel Channel One television's Arabic service in an address to Palestinians on Thursday night. "This is an opportunity for a fresh start for the peace process."


Israel's delayed troop redeployment in the West Bank town of Hebron will top the Erez talks, which may be attended by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher.