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Abbas Freezes Contact With Israelis After Day Of Violence Kills Three Palestinians, Three Israelis


Palestinian Muslim worshippers pray outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on July 21.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas says he is freezing all contacts with Israel following a day of deadly violence after Israel implemented heightened security measures at a contested Jerusalem holy site.

Abbas late on July 21 said relations at all levels would remain suspended until Israel lifted the security measures around the compound, which is revered as sacred by both Muslims and Jews.

Israel and the Palestinian authorities coordinate on a wide variety of security measures, and it was not immediately clear how the freeze would affect overall cooperation.

Earlier in the day, Israeli police said they were installing metal detectors and would restrict entrance to the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, which Jews refer to as the Temple Mount.

Police said that "entry to the Old City and Temple Mount will be limited to men aged 50 and over. Women of all ages will be permitted."

Muslim leaders urged worshippers not to enter the compound until Israel removed the detectors.

Worshippers on July 21 did not enter the compound, kneeling instead on mats on cobble stones in the heat outside the entrances in protest of the new security measures.

Authorities reported that the prayers remained mostly peaceful early in the day, but the Palestinian Health Ministry later said that three Palestinians had been killed after clashes erupted between Israeli forces and protesters.

The ministry said one person was killed in the Abu Dis area and another in the A-Tur neighborhood of East Jerusalem. A 17-year-old was also killed by "live fire," but the circumstances and location were not immediately clear.

Later on July 21, Israeli authorities reported that a Palestinian had stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family inside a West Bank settlement.

Israeli news site Ynet identified the victims as a woman in her 70s, a man in his 30s, and woman in her 60s, reportedly stabbed in a house in the settlement of Halamish.

On Saturday, AP reported that Israeli troops have arrested the brother of a 20-year-old Palestinian who stabbed to death three members of the Israeli family. The assailant was identified as Omar al-Abed.

Tensions have risen after Israeli police heightened security at the disputed compound after the killings of two Israeli police officers in a terrorist attack last week.

Muhammad Hussein, the city's top Muslim cleric, told the faithful he expects a "long test of wills" with Israel over the issue.

With reporting by AP, AFP and Reuters
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