Abbas to Freeze All Contact With Israel Until Metal Detectors Are Removed

After a long, hot day of violent protests that saw three Arab Muslims fatally shot during clashes, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced Friday night that his government would “freeze contact on all levels” with Israel until newly installed metal detectors are removed from the entrances to al-Aqsa Mosque.

As news of Abbas’s ultimatum broke, the Israeli military spokesman’s office reported that three Israelis were fatally stabbed late Friday by an assailant who entered their home in Halamish, a Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank. The attacker was shot. Israel’s Channel 2 news station said the assailant was Palestinian.

Earlier in the day, the Palestinian Health Ministry, a hospital and the Red Crescent ambulance service reported that three Palestinians were killed in the clashes and dozens more wounded. Many more suffered from inhaling tear gas, the medics said.

In his statement, Abbas did not say whether his ultimatum would mean a halt to the security coordination between Palestinian police and intelligence units and their Israeli counterparts — an uneven but working relationship that senior Israeli military commanders have long credited with tamping down potentially explosive violence in the West Bank.

The fast-moving events came as Israel and the Palestinians are locked in a dangerous showdown over Israel’s decision to install the metal detectors at the entrances to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound after a shooting rampage at the site last week.

On Friday, thousands of Muslim worshipers knelt in prayer on hot pavement and cobbled alleys around the Old City in an escalating protest.

After peaceful midday prayers ended, a wave of tire burning and stone throwing by Palestinians began in Arab communities around East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The protests were met by harsh Israeli countermeasures, including the use of water cannons, rubber bullets, stun grenades and live ammunition.

Palestinian authorities and media reports identified the three dead Palestinians as Muhammad Abu Ghanam, Muhammad Sharaf and Muhammad Mahmoud Khalaf.

Israeli officials said the “circumstances were being investigated” in the deaths of the three Palestinians. Five Israeli police officers also were lightly wounded in the earlier clashes.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, By William Booth and Ruth Eglash