By Stephen Farrell
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian and U.S. leaders blamed each other for a surge of violence, as mourners gathered in the occupied West Bank for the funeral of a Palestinian police officer shot dead during unrest, and Israel tightened security ahead of Friday Muslim prayers.
Tensions were high a day after two Palestinians were killed and 16 Israelis injured amid Palestinian anger at U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, unveiled last week with Israel’s prime minister at his side.
There were sporadic clashes on Friday between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces near Azzun, where the funeral was held for the police officer killed in Jenin the previous day.
Palestinian authorities said he was killed by Israeli gunfire. Israeli officials did not comment, and Israeli media reported that he was shot by troops by mistake.
Palestinians also clashed with Israeli troops in Jericho and burned tyres in the West Bank village of Bil’in, and Palestinian medics said one protester had been critically wounded near Tulkarm.
“The Palestinian people will not allow the ‘Deal of the Century’ to pass,” said Mohammed Barakeh, waving a Palestinian flag in Bil’in.
“They are fighting for their national character and the independence of their country,” added Barakeh, a former Israeli lawmaker and member of Israel’s 21% Arab minority, many of whom identify with their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza.
President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has rejected Trump’s peace plan, which would give Israel most of what it has sought during decades of conflict, including the disputed holy city of Jerusalem and nearly all the occupied land on which it has built settlements.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Washington was to blame for the unrest since the plan was unveiled.
“Those who introduce plans for annexation and the legalizing of occupation and settlements are really responsible for deepening violence and counter-violence,” he said. Abbas would go to the U.N. Security Council with “a genuine peace plan”, Erekat said.
Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, the principal architect of the U.S. plan, has repeatedly denounced the Palestinian leadership, a break from decades of diplomacy when Washington strove to appear as a neutral broker. On Thursday he blamed Abbas for the violence.
“I think he does have responsibility,” Kushner said after briefing United Nations Security Council ambassadors. “He calls for days of rage in response, and he said that before he even saw the plan.”
Israeli police said security chiefs had met late on Thursday and decided to increase security “across the country, with emphasis on Jerusalem”.
A police statement singled out the risk of trouble during Friday prayers at the Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.
Palestinians have long boycotted relations with the Trump administration, which they view as biased against them. Washington says its plan offers a path toward a Palestinian state, and blames the Palestinian leadership for rejecting it over unrealistic demands.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Peter Graff and Hugh Lawson)