Six killed as clashes erupt in standoff over mosque in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (NEW YORK TIMES)- Six people were killed on Friday (July 21) in an outbreak of violence that erupted over Israel's placement of metal detectors at entrances to the sacred Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem and spread to the West Bank.

Three Israelis were killed in what appeared to be a terrorist attack in a West Bank settlement hours after three Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces.

According to initial reports, a Palestinian entered a home in the Halamish settlement on Friday night, fatally stabbed three civilians - two men and a woman- and wounded another woman, before being shot at the scene.

The three Palestinian protesters were fatally shot in separate clashes in and around Jerusalem. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified them as Muhammad Mahmoud Sharaf, 17, from the mostly Palestinian neighborhood of Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem; Muhammad Abu Ghanam, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur, which is on the Mount of Olives; and Muhammad Lafi, 18, from Abu Dis, a Palestinian town on the outskirts of the city.

Israeli police said rioters threw rocks and firebombs and set off fireworks in the direction of the security forces, endangering them.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, who had cut short a trip to China to handle the spiraling crisis over the metal detectors, announced late on Friday that he was freezing contacts with Israel at all levels until it cancelled the new measures around the Jerusalem holy site.

The metal detectors were introduced after a brazen attack on the morning of July 14, when three armed Arab citizens of Israel emerged from Al Aqsa mosque and fatally shot two Israeli Druze police officers who were guarding an entrance to the compound.

The Israeli government's decision to introduce metal detectors rapidly became a source of friction and a symbolic rallying cry in the contest for control and sovereignty over the sacred compound.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, described the placement of metal detectors, as well as security cameras, at the entrances to the Al Aqsa mosque compound as "a flagrant violation of the rights and freedoms of Palestinian Muslim worshippers".

"Such intrusive and dehumanising practices," she said in a statement, "aim to provide Israel with carte blanche to exercise security control over the holy sites of Jerusalem."