Palestinian officials have accused the Israeli government of allowing settlers to commit acts of violence against Palestinians across the West Bank and inside the Old City of Jerusalem.

"Armed settlers are blocking off Palestinian roads and have so far burned over 300 cars," said Ghassan Daghlas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) official in charge of monitoring Israeli settlement policies in the occupied territories.

Daghlas told Al Jazeera that armed Israeli settlers, protected by units from the Israeli army, were roaming the West Bank, attacking Palestinian villages, burning their properties and setting olive trees ablaze.

Israeli troops clash with Palestinians at Al-Aqsa

In recent days, Daghlas said, there have been mounting attacks by the army and settlers against Palestinian population centres in the West Bank.

"It is clear for us that this campaign is designed to be used as a justification to take away more land from the Palestinians and build more illegal Jewish settlements," he said.


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Israeli police have closed off access to the Old City of Jerusalem for Palestinian men who are not residents of the area, after two attacks in less than 12 hours resulted in the deaths of two Israelis.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), told Al Jazeera that the latest stabbings were a reaction to "Israel's systematic cycle of violence, its occupation and building of settlements".

"The Israeli actions are an indication that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is trying to avoid his obligations to end this conflict and is trying to legitimise the illegal building of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories," Erekat said.

On Saturday, Netanyahu issued a statement blaming the Palestinian Authority for "wild incitement that leads to acts of terrorism and murder".

Netanyahu said he would speak to Israeli military and security chiefs "about the steps we will take not only to apprehend the murderers, but also to increase security for all Israeli citizens".

It is clear for us that this campaign is designed to be used as a justification to take away more land from the Palestinians and build more illegal Jewish settlements.

Ghassan Daghlas, PA official

Contacted by Al Jazeera, a spokesperson for the Israeli government declined to comment on allegations that the army was facilitating settler attacks throughout the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem, and instead referenced the recent statement from Netanyahu.

On the weekend, a six-year-old Palestinian boy was shot in his stomach near the West Bank city of Qalqilya. There have been conflicting reports on what happened, with the Israelis alleging the boy was playing with a gun that misfired, while the boy's family said he was shot by an Israeli settler who then fled the scene.

Erekat accused Netanyahu of exploiting the current volatile situation "to derail the two-state solution".

"Netanyahu is obviously trying to copy the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's 2002 military operation, 'Defensive Shield', which was the biggest Israeli offensive against the West Bank since the 1967 war," Erekat said.

Khalil Toufakji, head of the maps department at the Orient House in East Jerusalem, told Al Jazeera that current Israeli policies for Jerusalem are propelling the situation towards a religious confrontation between Muslims and Jews, altering the nature of the conflict from one of national liberation for the Palestinians into a religious war.

Jerusalem, according to several reports, could once again prove to be the spark to ignite the West Bank into another Intifada against the Israeli occupation. 

"Israeli leaders have long strategised and planned to frame this conflict along religious lines," Toufakji said. "All of their designs for Jerusalem, ever since they occupied it in 1967, have been about how to increase the Jewish population of the city and decrease the Palestinian [both Muslim and Christian] populations."

Israeli plans for Jerusalem, according to Toufakji, are to restrict the Arab population to 12 percent, while the remaining 88 percent would be Jewish, with full Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, excluding the villages of Beit Hanina and other outlying areas.

Adnan Husseini, the PA-appointed governor of Jerusalem, cited "unprecedented Israeli military pressure against the Palestinians", in addition to the Israeli government's attempts "to divide al-Aqsa Mosque and encourage Israeli settlers' attacks against the Islamic holy places in Jerusalem".

"The situation is extremely difficult for us," Husseini told Al Jazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera