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Israeli-Palestinian tension flares: 2 Palestinians killed as their leader slams Trump's peace plan

Relatives of Palestinian teenager Abdullah Ghaith look at his body at a hospital in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
Relatives of Palestinian teenager Abdullah Ghaith mourn over his body at a hospital in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 31, 2019. REUTERS

Jerusalem -- Israeli police shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian near the West Bank separation barrier on Friday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, while in Jerusalem's Old City, an alleged Palestinian attacker was killed after stabbing and injuring two Israelis, according to Israeli police.

The outbreak of violence came as tens of thousands of worshippers were flocking to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque for noon prayers on the last Friday in the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

It also came as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pleaded for a unified Arab resistance to a looming Middle East peace proposal from President Trump's administration. The Palestinian leadership has rejected the deal in advance, arguing the Trump administration cannot act as a neutral arbiter in the decades-old conflict due to what is perceived as a bias in favor of Israel.

Violence flares up

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli police shot and killed 16-year-old Abdullah Ghaith near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, adding that another 21-year-old Palestinian was wounded by a live bullet to the stomach.

Israeli police said that the Palestinian teenager was shot while attempting to climb over the heavily guarded separation barrier from Bethlehem into Jerusalem. The police added that they were launching a probe into the incident.

The boy's father, Louai Ghaith, said his son had been trying to enter Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the holy day. Ghaith's body was brought to a Bethlehem hospital, where his distraught family identified the body.

"He was going to fulfill his religious duty, he was going to worship," Ghaith said. "They killed him... with a bullet to his heart, like a game, and 16 years I've been raising him."

Israel Palestinians
Israeli border police officers stand guard as Israeli medics carry a body near the scene of a stabbing attack at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, May 31, 2019. Israeli police said they shot dead a 19-year-old Palestinian suspected of carrying out two stabbings near Damascus Gate. Two Israelis were said to have been wounded in the attack, one seriously. AP

In a separate event, Israeli police said they shot dead a 19-year-old Palestinian suspected of carrying out two stabbings near Damascus Gate, a bustling main entrance to the predominantly Palestinian part of the Old City.

Police said one Israeli was in critical condition, while the second was in moderate condition. The suspect, police added, was shot by security forces while running through the Old City's Muslim quarter.

The stabbings occurred just hours before busloads of Muslim worshippers were to arrive from both Israel and the West Bank for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in the Old City.

Kushner's peace prospects

Across the Mideast rallies and demonstrations were taking place Friday to mark Quds, or Jerusalem Day, an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan. This year's protests come as the Trump administration is pushing its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, crafted largely by Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. The details of the proposal remain unknown.

Jared Kushner promotes economic portions of his Mideast peace plan

On Sunday, Israel marks its own "Jerusalem Day," when it celebrates capturing the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war and annexing it. Tensions run high during the holiday, as nationalist Israeli marches pass through Damascus Gate and the Muslim quarter. Israeli police said the area would be heavily patrolled to keep the parade from erupting into violence, as has happened in the past.

Most of the international community has not recognized Israel's annexation of the eastern part of the city, which the Palestinians claim as their capital for a future state.

Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam, after the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

In Mecca on Friday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took advantage of a captive audience of Arab and Islamic leaders at a summit convened by Saudi Arabia's King Salman to slam the Trump administration's pending Mideast peace proposal.

"I would like to reconfirm our absolute rejection of the American attempts to bring down international law and international legitimacy under what is called the 'Deal of the Century'," he said, arguing that the proposal attempts to replace the principle of "land for peace" -- in other words the creation of an independent Palestinian state in exchange for peace with Israel -- with "land for prosperity."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the Arab summit in Mecca
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the Arab summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 31, 2019. REUTERS

Glimpses of the plan hint it will focus heavily on so-called economic peace while sidelining or ignoring the longstanding Palestinian goal of independence. The two-state solution continues to enjoy the broad support of the international community.

President Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner seeks to rally Arab Gulf states to back economic initiatives for Palestinians as part of the plan next month in Bahrain.