Jerusalem: At least three Palestinians were killed and several hundred people wounded Friday as worshippers clashed with Israeli security forces outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in violence prompted by the installation of metal detectors at its entry point. Meanwhile, Three Israeli civilians have been stabbed to death in a settlement near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Another Israeli was wounded in the attack in Halamish. The Israeli army said the attacker was shot and caught. The attack came near the end of a day of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces over new security measures at a Jerusalem holy site.
Three Palestinians were killed and hundreds were hurt in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. On Friday, four Israeli civilians were stabbed in Halamish (also known as Neve Tsuf) after “an assailant infiltrated a private home”, the Israeli army said. Israeli media reported the victims were a man in his sixties and his son and daughter, both in their forties. Another woman in her sixties is being treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the incident.
The Israeli army said the attacker was a young Palestinian man called Omar al-Abed, who hours before the attack, posted on Facebook linking his actions to events at Jerusalem’s holy site. He was shot by a neighbor – who was a soldier with the Israeli Defense Forces – and taken to hospital, but his condition was unclear
Tensions have risen since Israel installed the metal detectors in a move Palestinians and other Muslims perceive as a means for Israel to assert further control over the compound in East Jerusalem. “Al-Aqsa united all Palestinians today,” Hazem Kawasmi, head of the Jerusalem Society for Education and Culture, said. “We even saw our Christian brothers wearing their cross and joining us in prayers on Jerusalem’s streets as a powerful sign of national unity.” Kawasmi said he was denied entry to the Old City. In anticipation of protests on Friday, Israeli police barred men under 50 from entering Jerusalem’s Old City for prayers, while all women were allowed in.
Israeli lawyer Daniel Seidemann, who specializes in East Jerusalem issues, blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the deteriorating situation in Jerusalem. “This is all about Netanyahu saving face and never doing anything that can be perceived as ceding something to East Jerusalem Palestinians,” he wrote on his Twitter account. The Palestinian Health Ministry said Friday that Mohammed Sharaf, 17, and Mohammed Abu Ghanam, age unknown, died of gunshot wounds in two neighborhoods of East Jerusalem some distance from the epicenter of tension in the walled Old City. A third Palestinian fatality, 18-year-old Mohammed Lafi, was reported later.
In the West Bank, 194 injuries were recorded by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. Mahdi Abdul Hadi, founder and director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, told Arab News that all Palestinians are united in opposing the Israeli electronic gate restrictions. “Religious and national leaders are in total unity of purpose, no matter how long it takes,” he said.
Hadi said that the breakdown of talks in Amman and New York meant that Palestinian Jerusalemites are alone in defending their holy places. People came from all over Palestine with the aim of praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque or the nearest possible place to Islam’s third-holiest site. Palestinians who could not reach Jerusalem protested in the West Bank and Gaza and throughout the Arab and Islamic world. The main weekly prayers on Fridays draw the largest number of worshippers — typically thousands — and speculation had been mounting that Netanyahu might order the metal detectors to be removed.
But the premier apparently sided with his right-wing minister of police and decided not to do so, ignoring the recommendations of his own army and intelligence chiefs.
Jerusalemites’ sense of unity was also seen in the social support that protesters received, as shops that normally close on Fridays opened to distribute free food and water to protesters. The Al-Aqsa Mosque case was raised during a call between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law. Abbas urged the US administration to immediately intervene, warning the situation was “extremely dangerous and might spiral out of control,” the official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported. Abbas said Friday he was freezing contacts with Israel over new security measures. He said in a speech that the freeze would stay in place until Israel lifted the measures at the Haram Al-Sharif mosque compound.