Three Palestinians, three Israelis killed in violence over holy site
Escalating Israeli-Palestinian tensions over the Holy Land’s most contested shrine boiled over into violence on Friday that killed six people — three Palestinians in street clashes in Jerusalem and three Israelis in a stabbing attack at a West Bank settlement.
After nightfall, a Palestinian sneaked into a home in the Israeli settlement of Halamish in the West Bank and stabbed to death three Israelis, the head of Israel’s rescue service said.
An Israeli news site said those killed were two men and a woman who were having dinner at the time. The army released footage showing a blood-covered kitchen floor.
Israel TV’s Channel 10 said the assailant was in his late teens and had posted on Facebook that he was upset by the events at the shrine. Eli Bin, the head of Israel’s rescue service MDA, said an off-duty soldier next door heard screams, rushed to the home and shot the attacker through a window. Bin said the attacker was wounded and taken to hospital.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, announced that he is freezing ties with Israel, dealing a blow to fledgling Trump administration efforts to try to renew long-dormant peace talks.
Abbas said contacts with Israel would be suspended on “all levels.” It was not immediately clear if this means long-standing security coordination between Israeli troops and Abbas’s forces will be halted.
At issue in the current round of violence are metal detectors Israel installed at the Jerusalem shrine this week, in response to a deadly attack by Arab gunmen there. The shrine contains the Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques.
The metal detectors are perceived by the Palestinians as an encroachment on Muslim rights and portrayed by Israel as a needed security measure following the attack that killed two Israeli policemen.
Earlier Friday, several thousand Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank clashed with Israeli troops, burning tires or throwing stones and firecrackers. Troops fired live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas. Three Palestinians were killed and several dozen hospitalized with live or rubber bullet injuries. White clouds of tear gas rose from Jerusalem streets and West Bank flashpoints. In one neighbourhood, Palestinians threw stones from behind a mattress.
Israel also faced growing criticism from the Muslim world, and thousands staged anti-Israel protests after Friday prayers in Jordan and Yemen. The confrontations in the Holy Land could escalate in coming days, as both sides dig in.
Jerusalem’s top Muslim cleric, Mohammed Hussein, said protests, including mass street prayers outside the shrine, would continue until the devices are removed. He told worshippers Friday that they should prepare for a “long test of wills” with Israel.
“We will not back off,” he said.
A Palestinian protester throws back a tear-gas canister fired by Israeli soldiers during clashes on the Israeli border with Gaza on Friday.