JERUSALEM • Palestinian factions called for mass rallies against Israel in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in a "day of rage" yesterday as world and regional powers pressed on with talks to try to end more than three weeks of bloodshed.
Hours after the announcements, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier in the West Bank before being shot and wounded by other troops, the Israeli military said - part of a wave of violence that has killed about 60 people.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was cautiously optimistic that there was a way of defusing the tensions after holding four hours of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin on Thursday.
The Israeli authorities yesterday also lifted restrictions that had banned men aged under 40 from using the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City - a move seen as a bid to ease Muslim anger.
One of the worst waves of street violence in years was triggered in part by Palestinian anger over what they see as Jewish encroachment on the compound, Islam's third-holiest site, which is also revered by Jews as the location of two ancient temples.
The calls for mass protests were backed by both Palestinian militant group Hamas and the Fatah movement of Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as other factions.
The family of the Palestinian who stabbed the Israeli soldier yesterday said he was 16 years old. Fifty Palestinians, half of them assailants, have been shot dead at the scene of attacks or during demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza since Oct 1.
Nine Israelis have been stabbed or shot dead during the same period. One Israeli was killed by soldiers who mistook him for an attacker, and an Eritrean migrant was beaten and shot dead by a crowd of Israelis who thought he had taken part in a shooting.
Mr Kerry was expected to hold meetings in Amman today with Mr Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah, who has a role as a custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. One of Mr Kerry's goals is to reinforce the status quo at Al-Aqsa, which has long banned non-Muslim prayers at the site.
Mr Netanyahu said Israel had not changed the status quo and had no intention of doing so. An Israeli government source said Mr Netanyahu told Mr Kerry that to curb violence, Mr Abbas and King Abdullah should publicly declare the status quo had not changed.
A spokesman for Mr Netanyahu would not confirm that the Prime Minister had made such a demand.
On Thursday, Israeli police said an Israeli who went on a stabbing rampage two weeks ago, wounding four Arabs in the southern town of Dimona, would be charged with aggravated assault rather than terrorism-related charges.
At the time, Israeli politicians described the man's actions as "terrorism" and said he should be treated like any other attacker. The lesser charges are likely to fuel the sense among Palestinians that Israel applies double standards.
Palestinians are also angry at what they see as excessive use of force by Israeli police and soldiers, with many attackers shot dead at the scene when they might have been detained.