Israel is bracing for a possible fresh outbreak of violent confrontations on Friday, when Palestinian groups are planning a "day of rage" after a week of deadly clashes that have killed scores of Palestinians.
"We fear that there might be problems," an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman told AFP on Thursday. "We are afraid that they will try to escalate the situation even more than it is now."
Several Palestinian groups, including the militant Islamic resistance Hamas, have called for a day of rage to protest at the violence which was unleashed a week ago by a visit to Jerusalem's holy al-Aqsa mosque compound by Israel's hawkish opposition leader Ariel Sharon.
"We are calling for confrontation with our enemy, the soldiers and settlers, and for Friday to be a day of escalation and confrontation, with special demonstrations in all mosques in Gaza, the West Bank and (Israel)," Hamas said in a statement.
Similar calls have been made by Islamic Jihad, which like Hamas is violently opposed to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and also Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah political faction.
More than 70 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed by Israeli forces during clashes and gun-battles in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that spilled over into Israel for two days this week.
"The Zionists should stop the massacres against our people. They should leave our land and our Jerusalem, our Aqsa," said a Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.
"As long as the occupation is still there it is the right of our people to continue the resistance and jihad (holy war)," he added.
The al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City exploded in violence last Friday, the day after Sharon's visit, and seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces.
The compound housing Al-Aqsa, the third holiest place in Islam, also sits atop the vestiges of Judaism's most sacred shrine and control over the area is the key stumbling block in efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord – JERUSALEM (AFP)
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