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More Israeli Troops Sent to West Bank  07/22 10:44

   Israel's military sent more troops to the West Bank and placed forces on 
high alert Saturday, a day after a Palestinian stabbed to death three members 
of an Israeli family and Israeli-Palestinian clashes erupted over tensions at 
the Holy Land's most contested shrine.

   RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Israel's military sent more troops to the West 
Bank and placed forces on high alert Saturday, a day after a Palestinian 
stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family and Israeli-Palestinian 
clashes erupted over tensions at the Holy Land's most contested shrine.

   The father of the 20-year-old Palestinian assailant said he believes his son 
was upset over the loss of Palestinian lives and wanted to protect the "honor" 
of the Jerusalem holy site.

   Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the site of the attack, 
the Israeli settlement of Halamish, and consulted with top commanders. 
Lieberman said the attacker's home would be demolished swiftly. He called on 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn what he said was a "slaughter."

   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 violence which 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, saying the devices were 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 congregational prayers 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 two years.

   On Friday evening, a Palestinian identified as Omar al-Abed jumped over the 
fence of the Halamish settlement and entered a home, surprising a family during 
their Sabbath dinner.

   The Israeli military said the assailant killed a man and two of his adult 
children, while a woman was wounded. A neighbor heard the screams, rushed to 
the home and opened fire, wounding al-Abed who was taken to an Israeli 
hospital, said the head of Israel's rescue service.

   Itai Orayon, a medic, said he found "blood everywhere" in the house. He told 
Israel Army Radio that three people were on the floor, unconscious "with deep 
stab wounds all over their bodies," and that the medical team was unable to 
save them.

   On Saturday morning, Israeli troops searched the assailant's family home in 
the West Bank village of Kobar and detained one of his brothers, the army said. 
Video footage released by the military shows soldiers leading away a handcuffed 
and blindfolded man.

   The army said soldiers searched the house and measured it in preparation for 
demolition.

   The assailant's father said his son had been angered by the escalating 
violence at the Jerusalem shrine, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, or 
Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

   "The honor of Muslims is the only Haram," Mohammed al-Abed said. "If it's 
gone, the Muslims' honor is gone. This was the motive for my son."

   Ibrahim al-Abed, an uncle of the assailant, said his nephew had been 
arrested three months ago by security forces of Abbas, the Palestinian leader 
who presides over autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The 
uncle said his nephew had spent two weeks in detention and was violently 
interrogated about alleged plans to attack Israelis before he was released.

   The assailant said in a pre-attack Facebook post that he expected to be 
killed in the attack. He wrote that he wanted his body to be covered by a 
banner of the Islamic militant group Hamas and a photo of Abbas' predecessor, 
Yasser Arafat, founder of Hamas' main rival, the Fatah movement.

   The Israeli army said it sent more troops to the West Bank and placed forces 
on high alert, amid concerns of further violence. The Israeli daily Haaretz 
said several thousand more soldiers were deployed.

   Israel has repeatedly accused Abbas and his Palestinian Authority of 
permitting anti-Israeli incitement in the public Palestinian discourse.

   Michael Oren, a deputy minister for public diplomacy, alleged Saturday that 
Hamas and Abbas' government are exploiting tensions to incite violence. He said 
claims that Israel intends to change delicate arrangements at the 
Muslim-administered Jerusalem shrine are "emphatically untrue."

   Oren also argued that metal detectors are a routine security measure at holy 
sites around the world and that Palestinian leaders seized on the issue as a 
pretext to whip up anti-Israeli sentiment.

   Israeli officials have said they would guarantee continued access to Muslim 
worshippers but have not said how huge crowds could speedily pass through metal 
detectors during busy periods.

   Abbas has rejected Israeli incitement allegations, saying Israel's 
50-year-old occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state is at the root 
of widespread Palestinian anger and helps drive violence.

   Abbas is a staunch opponent of violence and in 12 years in power has stuck 
to security coordination between his forces and Israeli troops against a common 
enemy --- Hamas.

   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 such 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.


(KA)

 
 
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