Abbas confirms he halted security coordination, warns Israelis will ‘lose’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed on Monday his decision to halt security coordination with Israel in protest of the installation of metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, describing the decision as difficult and warning that it would be Israelis who would suffer from the measure.

Abbas indicated that should Israel want security coordination to return, it would have to reverse the recent security measures taken at the Temple Mount and halt all military incursions into Palestinian cities.

“If we are patient, we will certainly get what we want: we will stop the installation of these metal detectors, stop these measures, and stop the incursions by the Israeli government in all cities of the West Bank,” Abbas said, according to a report in the official PA news site Wafa.

Last Sunday, Israel placed metal detectors at gates to the Temple Mount in response to a shooting attack by three Arab Israelis who killed two Israeli policemen just outside the compound on July 14 using guns they had smuggled into the holy site. Israel placed new security cameras at entrances to the compound on Sunday, but left the detectors in place.

The decision to place the metal detectors enraged Arab and Muslim officials, leading to days of increasing riots. On Friday Abbas announced he was suspending all contact with Israel, though he did not say at the time if it meant security cooperation too.

Muslim worshipers pray outside the Old City of Jerusalem's Lions Gate in protest of the placement of metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount on July 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

“They don’t have a right to place the [metal detectors] at the gates to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, because sovereignty over the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque is our right… So we took a decisive and firm stance, especially with regard to security coordination and all kinds of coordination between us and them,” Abbas said Sunday.

The Palestinian leader said the decision to halt security coordination was a hard one to make, but that it would be Israel that ultimately suffered for it.

“This decision we took to stop all kinds of coordination, whether security or otherwise, is not easy at all. But they (the Israelis) have to act and know that they are the ones who will inevitably lose, because we are doing a very important duty in protecting our security and theirs.”

Abbas seemed to be responding to comments made earlier on Sunday by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who said security coordination was a “Palestinian need first and foremost.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, center at the site of a terror attack in the settlement of Halamish, where three Israelis were murdered and one seriously injured by a Palestinian in a stabbing attack. July 22, 2017. (Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

The security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians, in place for years despite near-frozen diplomatic ties, is seen as critical for both Israel and Abbas’s Fatah faction to keep a lid on violence in the West Bank, particularly from the Hamas terror group.

In comments that were posted and later removed from the Wafa statement, Abbas accused Israel of relying on the PA for security, while not fulfilling its own requirements toward the Palestinians.

In January 2016, head of the PA’s security forces Majed Faraj said his forces, working with Israeli security services, managed to foil hundreds of attacks against Israelis in less than a year.

Four Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces since Friday over the Temple Mount metal detectors, and another was killed Saturday when a firebomb he was planning to throw at Israeli security forces exploded prematurely.

The sharp escalation in violence came a week after the two Israeli Border Police officers were killed by Arab-Israeli 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.

On Friday night, three members of the Salomon family were stabbed to death in the Halamish settlement in the West Bank. The lethal terror attack unfolded when a 19-year-old Palestinian, Omar al-Abed, from a nearby village, burst into their home armed with a large knife and began stabbing the family members, who had gathered to celebrate the birth of a grandson.

Abed wrote on Facebook that he was carrying out the attack due to what he said was Israel’s “defilement” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on July 19, 2017, following a demonstration against new Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount. (AFP/Musa Al Shaer)

Muslim leaders say the metal detectors mark a change to the status quo at the site. Israel says the July 14 attack showed an imperative for reinforced security measures.

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.

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.

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