By Ari Rabinovitch
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel sent extra troops into the occupied West Bank on Saturday and its police broke up a crowd of stone-throwing Palestinians in Jerusalem as international concern mounted over the deadliest outbreak of violence between the two sides for years.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said one Palestinian was killed during a separate clash outside the city, taking the death toll from the past two days to seven. It did not provide details of how he died.
Three Israelis were stabbed to death on Friday while eating dinner in a West Bank settlement. Hours earlier, three Palestinians were killed in violence prompted by Israel’s installation of metal detectors at entry points to the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s walled Old City.
Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations – the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace mediators – said in a joint statement they were “deeply concerned by the escalating tensions and violent clashes taking place in and around the Old City of Jerusalem”, and called for restraint on all sides.
Diplomats said the U.N. Security Council would meet to discuss the situation on Monday. Sweden, Egypt and France requested the meeting to “urgently discuss how calls for de-escalation in Jerusalem can be supported”, Sweden’s Security Council coordinator, Carl Skau, posted on Twitter.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the suspension of all official contact with Israel until it removed the metal detectors at the holy compound in Jerusalem, where Muslims pray at Al-Aqsa mosque. He gave no details, but current contacts are largely limited to security cooperation.
Israel’s security cabinet was due to convene on Sunday and is expected to discuss alternative security measures that could be used to replace the metal detectors, according to two Israeli officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
WEST BANK RAID
In Jerusalem, Israeli police said they used riot gear to disperse dozens of Palestinians who threw stones and bottles at them. Television footage showed police throwing stun grenades and using a water cannon to break up the crowd.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces raided the home of the Palestinian attacker who fatally stabbed the three Israelis and wounded another on Friday, the military said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the attacker’s brother was arrested and that security forces were restricting movement of Palestinians from his village.
The stabbing victims were from the fenced-in West Bank settlement of Neve Tsuf. The attacker, Omar Alabed, who invaded their home, was shot and taken to a hospital for treatment, the military said.
Alabed posted a note on Facebook prior to the attack, writing: “I am going there and I know I am not going to come back here, I will go to heaven. How sweet death is for the sake of God, his prophet and for Al-Aqsa mosque.”
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with senior commanders in the West Bank to assess the situation and said the attacker’s home would be promptly demolished, in line with Israeli policy. He called on Abbas to condemn the attack, describing it as a “slaughter”.
Palestinian worshippers had clashed with Israeli security forces before Friday’s attack. Tensions had mounted for days as Palestinians hurled rocks and Israeli police used stun grenades after the detectors were placed outside the sacred venue, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said two Palestinians died of gunshot wounds in two neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, some distance away from the epicenter of tension. It later reported a third Palestinian fatality
Israel decided to install the metal detectors at the entry point to the shrine in Jerusalem about a week ago after the killing of two Israeli policemen stationed there.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ali Sawafta, additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)