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Israeli Dies in Car Crash After Rock-Throwing Attack

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A Jewish man died early Monday morning after attackers pelted the road he was driving on with rocks as he was returning home from a dinner celebrating Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, the Israeli authorities said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting to discuss rock-throwing, mostly by Palestinian youths.

The man was identified in local news reports as Alexander Levlovich, 64. His death was reported as the police and Palestinian youths clashed for a second day at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, amid tensions over increased visits by Jews for Rosh Hashana. The two-day holiday began at sundown on Sunday.

A statement from the Israeli police said the assailants were throwing stones on Sunday night on a road that runs between a Palestinian and Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The police said the stone-throwing “led to a self-inflicted accident,” as the man lost control of the car and smashed into a pole.

Ynet, an Israeli news site, quoted a woman who said that she was a passenger in the car and that it crashed after being hit by a thrown object. The site did not name the woman.

Luba Samri, a police spokeswoman, said the rock-throwing appeared to have caused the accident but that “nothing is 100 percent sure.” The police, with a court’s permission, said no more details about the case could be published while an investigation was continuing.

On Monday, Mr. Netanyahu said he would call a special meeting after Rosh Hashana ends Tuesday evening to discuss “harsher punishments and strict enforcement” and other means to combat rock-throwing.

The government had already said, on Sept. 2, that it was considering harsher measures against Palestinian stone-throwers, including greater use of live ammunition and tougher minimum sentences for those convicted.

Israeli security forces have increasingly grappled with rock-throwing, particularly along a highway in the occupied West Bank that is mostly used by Jewish settlers and on roads leading to Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

Last week, the Israeli police reported that stone-throwing episodes increased 53 percent in 2014 from the previous year.

Palestinians frequently argue that rocks and crude incendiary devices are among their only weapons to press for independence, and to defend themselves against Israeli forces during confrontations. For some young Palestinians in areas where there are frequent tensions, their use has become a rite of passage.

In East Jerusalem, Ms. Samri, the police spokeswoman, said protesters had thrown rocks at officers who had entered the contested holy site of the Al Aqsa Mosque — revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and as one of the three holiest sites in Islam — so they could allow non-Muslims, including Jews, to enter the area.

Three people were arrested, Ms. Samri said. Palestinians posted photographs on social media of a bloodied elderly man who they said had been hit in the eye with a rubber bullet.

The extended violence began on Sunday, when youths holed up in the mosque overnight, hoping to confront the police and Jewish visitors.

Similar clashes took place in July, as Jews held an annual fast day commemorating the destruction of two ancient temples believed to have once stood at the holy site.

The tensions that led to the fighting are a product, at least in part, of growing Palestinian fears that Jews are visiting the Temple Mount as part of an Israeli plan to assert sovereignty over the site or to divide it.

Non-Muslim prayer is banned at the site, and Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly said he has no intention of changing that.

Many Palestinians do not believe his claims, noting that some nationalist Jewish activists have been agitating for increased access and prayer rights at the site, and that some members of Mr. Netanyahu’s government have supported the call for open Jewish prayer there.

After the clashes on Sunday, Uri Ariel, a right-wing minister who has urged Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, visited the site in what was interpreted by some as a provocation.

Israel recently outlawed an organization of Muslim women who chase and shout at Jewish visitors at the holy site, along with an affiliated, less-vocal group of men. The government accused both groups of inciting violence.

Before the ban was imposed, Muslim women were banned from entering the Al Aqsa Mosque during the early morning, when foreign visitors and Jews are allowed to enter the site, said Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at Ir Amim, an organization that advocates for Palestinians in Jerusalem.

This site is in the Old City of Jerusalem, in territory Israel seized from Jordan in the 1967 war and then annexed in a move that has not been internationally recognized.

The compound has a special status: It is administered by the Islamic Waqf trust, under Jordanian custodianship, but Israel controls security. Tensions over the site have mounted over the past year and have often resulted in violence.

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(via NY Times)