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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Violence Flares Despite Israeli Offer

JERUSALEM -- Violence flared in the West Bank on Thursday over Israeli settlement building in Arab East Jerusalem, and Jewish settlers opened a new front by moving into an Arab neighborhood of the city.


Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu offered to finish making peace in six months but Palestinians called it a publicity stunt to avoid the world's condemnation for breaking ground this week on a Jewish settlement.


Israeli troops fired tear gas at hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators in Bethlehem near Jerusalem.


Witnesses said protesters broke through about 40 Palestinian policemen to hurl stones at Israeli troops guarding the tomb of the biblical Rachel. Soldiers fired tear gas and a few people were overcome by fumes.


Bulldozers dug for a third day into a hillside on Jerusalem's outskirts slated for the new Jewish settlement, while five settler families moved under cover of darkness into a sprawling house in the Arab Silwan neighborhood.


Since 1991 at least 18 settler families have moved into Silwan, home to 30,000 Palestinians, an area where they say the biblical King David had the first capital of the Jewish people.


Netanyahu's office said a settler leader had informed him of the entry into Silwan on Thursday but an official statement said the government did not initiate the action. A spokesman for the National Religious Party, the government's biggest champion of settlements, denied any significance to the timing so soon after the world condemned the groundbreaking for the project for Jews on a hill the Arabs call Jabal Abu Ghneim and the Israelis call Har Homa.


Aides to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat slammed the offer by Netanyahu to accelerate peace moves, which emerged on Wednesday, and called it a trick aimed at scrapping existing deals that call for three West Bank withdrawals of Israeli troops.


Arafat, who had appealed to Palestinians not to let protests turn violent, and an envoy from Netanyahu crossed paths Thursday in Cairo, the center of Arab consultations on the crisis in Middle East peace talks.


Arafat and Israeli envoy Dore Gold flew into the Egyptian capital separately.


Israeli warplanes attacked a village near the Syrian border Thursday, a day after Lebanese guerrillas killed an Israeli soldier, security officials said, according to a report by The Associated Press.


Two jets fired two missiles on the village of Wadi Assi in northeastern Lebanon, said the Lebanese officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. There were no casualties in the raid.