An Israeli security guard shot dead a Palestinian man thismorning during clashes in a contested East Jerusalem neighbourhood.
Another Palestinian man was critically injured in the incident near a Jewish settlement in the Silwan district, the scene of frequent tensions over the presence of settlers and over municipal plans to destroy Palestinian homes to build a tourist park.
Israeli police say the guard fired shots in the air after his car was blocked and stoned by dozens of Palestinians. However, residents say that the two Palestinian men were taxi drivers on their way to or from work when they were shot by the guard.
Community leaders say that they had warned police of the dangers of allowing armed, private security contractors to patrol the streets of Silwan on behalf of Jewish settlers. Police are questioning the guard while a postmortem is carried out on Samer Sirhan, a 32-year-old father of five.
annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, in a move not recognised by the international community. Earlier this year, the Jerusalem municipality approved a plan to destroy 22 Palestinian homes in Silwan – a mainly Palestinian neighbourhood of some 45,000 residents close to the Old City walls – to make way for an archaeological park.
Hardline Jewish settlers refer to the heavily guarded Silwan as the City of David and have in recent years been increasing their presence in the neighbourhood.
Today, tensions are running high. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used by Israeli forces to disperse angry demonstrators hurling rocks at police. Riots broke out in the area in August over Jewish settlers using a pathway alongside a neighbourhood mosque. Around 300 settlers are thought to now live in the area.
The Middle East quartet has again urged Israel to extend its partial freeze of Jewish settlements construction, which expires in days.
The quartet, which comprises the US, the UN, Russia and the EU, issued a statement, saying that it "noted that the commendable Israeli settlement moratorium instituted last November has had a positive impact and urged its continuation".
Palestinians negotiators have said they will end peace talks with Israel if the moratorium on settlements construction is not continued. The two sides are reported to have reached a "dead end" over this issue during meeting in New York yesterday.