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Amid Violence, Palestinian Leader Cuts Ties to Israel -- WSJ

22 Jul 2017 6:32 am
By Nuha Musleh 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (July 22, 2017).

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas suspended all contact with Israel on Friday after new security measures around Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site set off a wave of widespread violence that left at least six people dead.

Israeli security forces clashed with thousands of Palestinians protesting Israel's installation of metal detectors last week at entrances to the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

Israel installed the metal detectors outside the site in Jerusalem's Old City after three gunmen killed two Israeli police officers last week. The gunmen were subsequently shot and killed by security forces.

Palestinian officials said three Palestinians were killed on Friday and hundreds injured in violence that spread to East Jerusalem and West Bank cities such as Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron after Muslim prayers. Israeli police said they were investigating the reports of Palestinian deaths.

Also Friday, a Palestinian attacker stabbed three Israelis to death in a West Bank Jewish settlement and wounded a fourth, according to Israeli rescue workers.

The attacker was shot and wounded by police after entering a private Israeli home in the settlement of Halamish near Ramallah and stabbing residents inside, the Israeli Defense Forces said.

The IDF circulated a Facebook post that identified the attacker as Omer Alabed. "I am not 20 yet. I had many dreams but what life is this where our children, women and men are killed and holy places are discriminated, " it read.

Hamas, the militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, praised the attack, calling it a "normal" response to Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

Earlier in the day Israeli officials said at least four policemen were injured as Palestinian protesters threw rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at security forces in East Jerusalem.

Israeli police said they have arrested more than two dozen rioters.

"I declare the suspension of all contacts with the Israeli side on all levels until it cancels its measures at Al Aqsa mosque and preserves the status quo," Mr. Abbas said after meeting his aides, referring to the mosque on the Noble Sanctuary. Mr. Abbas also called on the United Nations to protect Palestinians.

The Israeli government had no immediate comment on Mr. Abbas's declaration. Israelis and the Palestinian Authority cooperate on a range of issues from security coordination to financial transfers, and it wasn't immediately clear how those exchanges would be affected by Mr. Abbas's pronouncement.

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres "urges Israeli and Palestinian leaders to refrain from actions that could further escalate the situation and calls on all political, religious and community leaders to help reduce tension," his spokesman said in a statement. Mr. Guterres also called for a full investigation of Friday's deaths and said "the sanctity of religious sites should be respected as places for reflection, not violence."

Despite the pockets of violence, worshipers had dispersed following midday prayers on the Temple Mount and all roads in the historic area were open, police said. Security was heightened in and around the Old City to prevent further incidents, police said, adding police and Israeli border patrol were prepared to step in as necessary.

Muslims in the Palestinian territories and several countries around the world have protested Israel's installation of metal detectors at the Temple Mount gates. Many Muslims say they view the measure as Israel imposing its control and changing the status quo at the site.

Ya'acov Perry, a member of parliament and former Israeli intelligence chief, on Thursday dismissed concerns about the security measures. "There shouldn't be a problem in placing metal detectors like they are also placed in Mecca and the Vatican," he said.

Israel says its additional security measures aimed to improve security at the site and would remain as long as necessary.

"Last week's terror attack crossed a red line and was an attempt to harm the sensitive fabric of the Temple Mount," Israeli Police Chief Roni Alsheich told Israel Radio on Friday.

The Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary, has long been a flashpoint for violence between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. The compound is the site of the Western Wall, considered one of Judaism's holiest sites, and Al Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest after the Saudi cities Mecca and Medina.

The last major wave of Temple Mount-related violence broke out in September 2015, partly amid Palestinian claims that Israel was encroaching on the plaza and seeking to change the longtime status quo over access to it. The bloodshed left hundreds dead, many of them Palestinians.

The new security measures have been criticized by the Waqf, a Muslim religious authority overseen by Jordan that administers the Temple Mount with Israel's support. Its representatives have refused to pass through the metal detectors and called on other worshipers to pray outside the gates until Israel removes them, raising tensions in the area around the site this week.

Israel deployed additional police around the Temple Mount site on Friday after Palestinian factions called for a "day of rage" to protest the metal detectors. It also barred Palestinian men under the age of 50 from entering the Temple Mount on Friday, in a bid to prevent violence.

--Abubakr Bashir in Gaza City contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 22, 2017 02:32 ET (06:32 GMT)

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