Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced late Friday he was freezing all contacts with Israel.
I, on behalf of the Palestinian leadership, announce… a freeze of all contacts with the occupation state on all levels until Israel commits to canceling all the measures against our Palestinian people in general and Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque in particular,” Abbas said to applause from officials convened in PA headquarters in Ramallah.
He specifically castigated the deployment of metal detectors at the Temple Mount compound — placed there by Israel after a July 14 terror attack in which three Arab-Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers there with guns they had smuggled into the holy site. Abbas called the measures “falsely presented as a security measure to take control over Al-Aqsa mosque.”
The dramatic statement from the PA president came after a day of riots around the Old City and the Jerusalem area. Three Palestinians were reported killed and some 200 others were wounded.
“The steps taken by Israel are leading to a religious confrontation and an evasion from a diplomatic process,” Abbas was quoted by Haaretz as saying.
Abbas called on all Palestinian employees to donate one day’s pay to supporting Jerusalem.
He said he had spoken with several heads of state, including from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and asked them to intervene in the Temple Mount conflict.
The PA president said the Palestinian Authority would finance all costs of treating those wounded of Friday’s clashes. “We will spend $25 million supporting the Palestinians of Jerusalem,” he reportedly said.
He also called on Hamas to rally around the cause of the Temple Mount and reconcile with his own party, Fatah.
The drastic escalation on Friday came a week after the two Israeli Border Police officers were killed by terrorists at the Temple Mount. In the wake of the attack, Israel closed the site for 48 hours as it searched for more weapons, and then installed metal detector gates at entrances to the compound.
The Islamic Waqf, Jordanian custodians of the holy site, opposed the presence of the metal detectors and called on Palestinians and Israeli Arabs not to enter the site to pray there.
After the attack last week, Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone and Abbas condemned the violence but also demanded the compound be immediately reopened.
Israel did not immediately respond to Abbas’s announcement on Friday night. It was not clear whether the PA president’s statement on ceasing “all contacts” included security coordination between the IDF and Palestinian Authority security forces. The PA’s security forces and the IDF have been working closely to stem terror attacks and other violence.
Although Israel and the PA have not held peace talks for three years, cooperation between the respective security forces in maintaining calm in the West Bank has been ongoing.
The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews, as the site of the biblical temples. It is the third holiest site in Islam, where it is known as the Al-Aqsa compound or Noble Sanctuary, as the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war, but allowed the Jordanian-appointed Waqf to continue to administer its Muslim holy sites there under overall Israeli security control. Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray there.