The Latest: Quartet calls for calm amid Mideast tensions

AP News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2015 3:22 PM
The Latest: Quartet calls for calm amid Mideast tensions

JERUSALEM (AP) — The latest developments in a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence (all times local).

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10:00 p.m.

The Middle East Quartet is calling on both Israel and the Palestinian leadership to show "maximum restraint and avoidance of provocative rhetoric and actions" in efforts to reduce their conflict.

High-ranking members of the Quartet — the U.N, the EU, the U.S. and Russia — issued a statement calling for calm after meeting Friday in Vienna on the sidelines of Syria talks.

The statement says calm is needed to "restore confidence and hope in the viability of a negotiated two-state solution" between Israel and the Palestinians ending "the occupation that began in 1967" and resolving the status of Jerusalem.

The statement called on Israel to work with Jordan to "uphold the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem in both word and practice."

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini read the statement after meetings in Vienna with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov.

The statement says Quartet envoys will travel to the region in the near future to help mediate an end to the conflict. Mogherini says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told her he will work with the envoys and she hopes for a positive response from President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestine Authority.

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8:20 p.m.

Video footage has emerged showing a masked man, presumed to be an Israeli extremist, attacking an Israeli rights activist with a knife and scuffling with him in the West Bank.

It shows the man threatening Rabbi Arik Ascherman of the Israeli group Rabbis for Human Rights on Friday afternoon, then pulling out a knife and making stabbing gestures with it. The masked man kicks and wrestles Ascherman to the ground before running away.

Ascherman told Channel 2 TV that "One of the masked Israelis ran toward me with big stones, started to throw stones and pulled out a knife. After a short struggle he ran away."

According to the station, the rights group was helping Palestinians harvest olives in the northern West Bank when they were harassed by Israeli extremists. It said police have opened an investigation.

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7:00 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging international and Mideast leaders to take action to prevent the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from becoming a religious dispute that could be exploited by extremists on both sides "with potentially dangerous regional implications."

The U.N. chief, who just returned from talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, told reporters in New York on Friday that "despite the anger and the polarization, there is still time to step back from the brink."

Ban said he hopes Friday's meeting in Vienna of the Quartet of Mideast mediators — the U.N., U.S., EU, Russia — and Arab leaders, and other meetings will result in an end to violence.

He said Quartet envoys plan to visit the region soon "to explore significant steps" to restore confidence and move toward a two-state solution.

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6:00 p.m.

The Israeli military says Palestinians threw a firebomb at a passing Israeli car, wounding a woman and her two children in the West Bank.

It says the victims taken to a hospital. There were no further details on their conditions. Israel's Haaretz daily reported that a 4-year-old girl sustained burns on 35 percent of her body while her sister and mother were lightly hurt.

Friday's firebombing was the latest in a series of almost daily Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers over the past month.

Ten Israelis have been killed in that time, mostly in knife attacks. On the Palestinian side, 48 people have been killed by Israeli fire, including 27 said by Israel to be attackers and the rest in clashes with Israeli forces.

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3: 40 p.m.

Israel's military says an initial inquiry of security camera footage capturing Israeli troops as they kick and beat a Palestinian man shows they "did not act in accordance with the standards."

The army says it's still investigating. It says the incident took place at a time when Palestinians were throwing rocks and firebombs at troops nearby.

The footage released Friday by the Israeli rights group B'Tselem shows a man carrying a box into a storage room and then standing at the door, looking outside. Soldiers rush toward him, beat and kick him for several minutes while he lies on the ground, then drag him outside.

It's not clear what happened before the footage begins.

B'Tselem says the Oct. 6 incident happened in the West Bank town of el-Bireh.

Ansar Aasi, 25, the man in the video, says he wasn't involved in violence. "I raised my hand and told them I didn't do anything but they beat me everywhere," Aasi told The Associated Press. He said he was detained for five days and only released after his employer showed police the CCTV footage.

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2:50 p.m.

Muslim prayers at Jerusalem's holiest site, which has been the epicenter of weeks of unrest, have ended peacefully.

It was the first time since violence erupted in mid-September that Muslims of all ages could attend the weekly Friday prayers at the Muslim-run site.

In recent weeks, police had barred younger Muslim men from the shrine, framing the restrictions as a security measure. Clashes between stone-throwers and security forces at the shrine, revered by Muslims and Jews, often involved teens and young men.

Azzam Khatib, the director of the Waqf — the Islamic religious authority that oversees the compound — said 25,000 worshippers attended, five times as many as the week before.

The calm comes after weeks of Israeli-Palestinian violence, including near-daily Palestinian attacks that killed 10 Israelis. On the Palestinian side, 48 people were killed by Israeli fire, including 27 labeled by Israel as attackers and the rest in clashes.

Diplomatic efforts are underway to end the violence.

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1:15 p.m.

An Israeli human rights group has released security camera footage showing several Israeli soldiers beating and kicking a Palestinian man for several minutes as he lies curled up in a defensive position on the floor of a storage room.

Israel's military says it is looking into the incident.

The group B'Tselem said Friday that the footage is of an Oct. 6 incident in the West Bank town of el-Bireh. The group says 25-year-old Ansar Aasi was at work in the storage room when clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers erupted nearby.

The video begins with him carrying a box into the storage room. He is then seen standing at the door, looking outside. Suddenly, Israel soldiers rush toward him, beat him repeatedly and drag him outside.

B'Tselem says Aasi required medical treatment and was detained for five days after soldiers alleged he had thrown stones. The group says he was only released after police viewed the security camera footage.

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10:45 a.m.

Israeli police say that for the first time in the current round of escalating violence, Muslims of all ages will be able to enter Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site to perform Friday prayers.

Since mid-September, police had barred younger Muslim men from the site, which is revered by both Muslims and Jews and is a source of soaring Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Police have said such bans were imposed to prevent clashes at the Muslim-run shrine. Muslims view age restrictions as part of a perceived Israeli attempt to expand its presence at the site, a claim Israel has repeatedly denied.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says age limits were lifted Friday, following security assessments.

The decision came a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an attempt to lower tensions. Kerry is to meet over the weekend with Jordan's King Abdullah II, the custodian of the shrine, and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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8:00 a.m.

Israel's military says a Palestinian stabbed a soldier in the West Bank and was shot by troops.

It says both the soldier and the Palestinian were wounded in Friday's incident and were taken for medical treatment.

It was the latest incident in a round of violence that began in mid-September. Ten Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings. Forty-eight Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 27 labeled by Israel as attackers and the rest in clashes.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is holding meetings with the leaders of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians this week to try to contain the violence and tone down the angry rhetoric between the sides.