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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Palestinian President suspends official contact with Israel over holy site

Clashes have occurred over Israeli controls on access to the Al Aqsa compound

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has frozen contact with Israel (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has frozen contact with Israel (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has suspended all official contact with Israel until it removes the new security measures at a Jerusalem holy site.

Palestinians have clashed with Israeli security forces outside the shrine for days and on Friday when at least three were killed when fighting broke out as people protested against the installation of metal detectors at entrances to the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount compound that is holy to Muslims and Jews.

"I declare the suspension of all contacts with the Israeli side on all levels until it cancels its measures at Al-Aqsa mosque and preserves the status quo," Mr Abbas said in a brief televised speech after meeting his aides, referring to a mosque forming part of the holy site.

Two other Palestinians were shot dead earlier in east Jerusalem, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The clashes with Israeli forces broke out after the Israeli government decided not to remove metal detectors installed by police at the gates to Al Aqsa following an attack nearby that resulted in the death of two policemen a week ago.

In anticipation of protests on Friday, Israeli police barred men under 50 from entering the Old City for prayers and deployed about 3,000 officers in the area.

A Palestinian advocacy group said police had also detained 10 prominent Palestinian activists in Jerusalem on Friday morning, including the leader of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement in the city.

Police said later in the day that discretion could be applied in the use of the metal detectors instead of forcing everyone to go through them. However, Palestinian and religious leaders called on worshippers not to enter the compound until they were removed.

Tensions have risen since police installed the metal detectors in a move Palestinians and other Muslims perceive as a means for Israel to assert further control over the compound containing the revered Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

The controversy has resonated beyond Israel and the Palestinian territories, with the United States and the UN Middle East envoy expressing concern.

The security measures have also sparked anger in Jordan, which is the official custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital Amman in protest on Friday.

The Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi called Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, on Thursday to discuss the issue and both leaders stressed the importance of a complete re-opening of Al Aqsa to worshippers, the Wam news agency reported.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that the metal detectors were intended to ensure the safety of worshippers and visitors and not an attempt to disturb the fragile status quo.

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