Israel sent more troops to the West Bank on Saturday, a day after a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family in their home and widespread Israeli-Palestinian clashes erupted over escalating tensions at the Holy Land’s most contested shrine.
Disputes over the shrine, revered by Muslims and Jews, have set off major rounds of Israeli-Palestinian confrontations in the past. They were also at the root of the current round that began last week when Arab gunmen fired from the shrine, killing two Israeli policemen.
In response, Israel installed metal detectors at the gates of the 37-acre (15-hectare) walled compound, portraying the devices as a needed security measure to prevent more attacks.
Muslims alleged Israel was trying to expand its control at the Muslim-administered site under the guise of security — a claim Israel denies — and launched mass prayer protests.
On Friday, anger boiled over and several thousand Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and in Jerusalem after noon prayers, the highlight of the Muslim religious week. Three Palestinians were killed and several dozen wounded by live rounds and bullets in some of the worst street clashes in the past two years.
Late on Friday, a Palestinian identified as Omar Al-Abed jumped over the fence of the Israeli settlement of Halamish in the West Bank and entered a home, surprising a family during their Sabbath dinner.
On Friday evening, Abbas announced that he would “freeze” ties with Israel “on all levels” until the metal detectors are removed from the shrine, but did not say whether this means halting security coordination. Ending security ties would have far-reaching repercussions and sharply raise tensions with Israel.
Even if largely meant for domestic Palestinian consumption, the Abbas announcement dealt a setback to fledgling efforts by the Trump administration to revive long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian talks on a peace deal.
Such efforts now seem moot as Israelis and Palestinians refuse to budge in the showdown over the shrine and violence threatens to escalate.
Israel’s military said Saturday it sent more troops to the West Bank. It did not elaborate but said the decision came after hundreds of troops were deployed Friday.
Israel’s chief of staff and defense minister visited the Halamish settlement, the scene of the stabbing attack, on Saturday.