Israeli troops deploy across East Jerusalem and West Bank after violence over holy site

6213

Israeli security forces frisk a Palestinian man outside Lions’ Gate, a main entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 22. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM — Israeli soldiers and police fanned out across East Jerusalem and the West Bank on Saturday, carrying out raids and arrests a day after three Palestinians were killed in violent protests and after three Israeli settlers were knifed to death in their kitchen during a birthday celebration.

Israeli forces blocked access to the village of Khobar in the West Bank, home to the 19-year-old Palestinian assailant who hopped the fence surrounding the Jewish settlement of Halamish on Friday night and stabbed to death three Israelis — a father and his two adult children — who had gathered for the Sabbath meal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the killings on incitement.

“It is a terrorist act committed by a human animal, infused with abhorrent hatred,” he said in a statement.

“The security forces are doing all they can to maintain security, and will take all necessary measures to do so.”

Israel army commanders said they were readying for more attacks from lone-wolf assailants and more mass demonstrations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the killings on incitement.

“It is a terrorist act committed by a human animal, infused with abhorrent hatred,” he said in a statement.

“The security forces are doing all they can to maintain security, and will take all necessary measures to do so.”

Israel and the Palestinians are locked in a tense showdown over Israel’s decision to install metal detectors at the entrances to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City after a shooting rampage at the site eight days ago. Three Palestinian gunmen killed two Israeli police officers outside the mosque before being shot dead themselves.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned on Friday night that his government would “freeze contact on all levels” with Israel until the detectors are removed.

Israeli officials argue that the detectors are needed for security after the gun attack outside the mosque. Palestinians say they will refuse to pass through the devices, which they condemn as another implement of control employed by a hostile occupation.

On Saturday, Abbas’s political party, Fatah, praised the demonstrations against the Israeli metal detectors and asserted that the protests “will not stop until a Palestinian victory and the release of the holy sites from Israeli occupation.”

Fatah called a general strike and three days of mourning in honor of the three dead protesters, who appear to have been killed by Israeli live fire. Israel said it is investigating the deaths.

Israeli leaders downplayed the threat from Abbas to cut off contact, saying the Palestinian leader was likely bluffing to rally support on the street. The Israelis said that if Abbas really did end security coordination between Palestinian forces and their Israeli counterparts, it would be Abbas and his people who would suffer the most.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the scene where Friday’s deadly knife attack took place. Israelis were shocked by photographs released by the army that showed the kitchen floor of the home covered in blood.

Lieberman called on Abbas to “condemn the massacre that was carried out yesterday against an innocent family that didn’t endanger anyone,” according to a statement from the Defense Ministry.

Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, charged that Abbas and his rivals in the Islamist militant movement Hamas were stoking passions over the mosque and inciting Palestinians to violence.

Abbas’s deputies denied the allegation and said it was Israel that had unleashed the violence by provocative changes to security at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, also known as the Tempe Mount, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.

Just hours before he stabbed the Jewish family in the West Bank, the assailant, Omar al-Abed, wrote out a last will and testament on his Facebook page

“All I have is a sharpened knife, and it responds to the call of al-Aqsa,” he wrote. “Shame on you, you who preach hate. God will take revenge on you. We are all sons of Palestine and sons of al-Aqsa. You, the sons of monkeys and pigs, if you do not open the gates of al-Aqsa, I am sure that after me they will come after you and beat you with an iron first, I warn you.”

Abed’s father told the Associated Press that his son believed he was defending Muslim honor by defending the mosque. An uncle told reporters that Abed had recently spent two weeks in a Palestinian jail, where he was interrogated by Abbas’s security police, who suspected that Abed was plotting to attack Israelis.

Read more