RAMALLAH, July 23, (Agencies): Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Friday he was freezing contacts with Israel over new security measures at a highly sensitive Jerusalem holy site, after deadly clashes erupted earlier in the day.
Abbas said in a speech that the freeze would stay in place until Israel lifted the measures at the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, which Jews refer to as the Temple Mount.
“I, on behalf of the Palestinian leadership, announce … a freeze of all contacts with the occupation state on all levels until Israel commits to cancelling all the measures against our Palestinian people in general and Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque in particular,” Abbas said to applause from Palestinian officials.
Abbas called the measures “falsely presented as a security measure to take control over Al-Aqsa mosque”.
It was unclear if the move would apply to the quiet security coordination that exists between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, widely seen as having helped prevent a wider outbreak of violence in recent years.
The two sides have a range of contacts on various other issues, with recent deals announced related to water and electricity.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have however been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in 2014, though US President Donald Trump has been seeking ways to restart talks.
Abbas’s speech came after three Palestinians were killed and several hundred wounded Friday in clashes between protesters and Israeli forces over the new security measures at the holy site.
Meanwhile, Israel installed new security cameras Sunday at the entrance to a sensitive Jerusalem holy site, as officials began indicating it was considering “alternatives” to the metal detectors at the contested shrine that set off a weekend of violence and raised tensions in the region.
Israel set up the new security measures last week after Arab gunmen opened fire from the shrine, killing two Israeli policemen. It said they were a necessary measure to prevent more attacks and were deployed routinely at holy sites around the world. But Muslims alleged Israel was trying to expand its control at the Muslim-administered site and have launched mass prayer protests.
Three Palestinians were killed in street clashes Friday in some of the worst street violence in years, and later a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family.
Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who heads the Israeli defense body for Palestinian civilian affairs, said Israel was open to alternatives to lower the tensions.
The Arab League has warned Israel is “playing with fire” over the “red line” of Jerusalem and its foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday over Israeli-Palestinian violence, according to statements on Sunday.
Israel sent extra troops into the occupied West Bank on Saturday after violence erupted over Israel’s installation of metal detectors at entry points to the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s walled Old City.
Turkey’s president has condemned Israeli security precautions at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site saying the Islamic world would not remain silent.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed reporters Sunday in Istanbul before departing on a visit to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
He says: “No one can expect the Islamic world to remain unresponsive after the humiliation Muslims suffered with the restrictions at the Noble Sanctuary.”