Six people were killed on Friday in an outbreak of violence that erupted over Israel’s placement of metal detectors at entrances to the sacred Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem and spread to the West Bank.
Three Israelis were killed in what appeared to be a terrorist attack in a West Bank settlement hours after three Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces.
According to initial reports, a Palestinian entered a home in the Halamish settlement on Friday night, fatally stabbed three civilians — two men and a woman — and wounded another woman, before being shot at the scene.
The three Palestinian protesters were fatally shot in separate clashes in and around Jerusalem. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified them as Muhammad Mahmoud Sharaf, 17, from the mostly Palestinian neighborhood of Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem; Muhammad Abu Ghanam, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur, which is on the Mount of Olives; and Muhammad Lafi, 18, from Abu Dis, a Palestinian town on the outskirts of the city.
The Israeli police said rioters threw rocks and firebombs and set off fireworks in the direction of the security forces, endangering them.
President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, who had cut short a trip to China to handle the spiraling crisis over the metal detectors, announced late Friday that he was freezing contacts with Israel at all levels until it canceled the new measures around the Jerusalem holy site.
It was not immediately clear if the suspension included the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel, a crucial vestige of the relationship between the two sides. Peace talks have been at an impasse for years.
The clashes came as thousands of Palestinian Muslims prayed in front of police barricades in the streets around the Old City of Jerusalem after a tense, weeklong standoff over the metal detectors and other restrictions.
The metal detectors were introduced after a brazen attack on the morning of July 14, when three armed Arab citizens of Israel emerged from Al Aqsa Mosque and fatally shot two Israeli Druze police officers who were guarding an entrance to the compound. The assailants ran back inside the courtyard and were killed after an exchange of fire with other officers, who had pursued them.
In a rare move, after the attack, Israel temporarily closed the contested and volatile holy site, which is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, and emptied it of all workers while the police conducted searches.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Isabel Kershner