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World

3 Palestinians Killed In Violent Clashes With Israelis Near Jerusalem Religious Site

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It was a day of intensifying violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank. For a week, tensions have increased around the contested religious site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Today there were clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police near the site. Three Palestinians were killed. Hours later, Israeli authorities said an attacker - apparently Palestinian - entered a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and stabbed to death three Israelis. NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Jerusalem.

And, Daniel, it feels like this maybe had been building up over the last week. How did this latest round of violence begin?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: All right, well, last Friday there was a deadly shooting at the holy site in Jerusalem. Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel killed two Israeli policemen. After that, Israel installed metal detectors where Muslims enter the site to pray. And Israel said it was a necessary security measure. But Palestinians said it was an Israeli attempt to try to take control of the site, which is run by Muslim authorities.

So this week, Muslims boycotted the holy site. Palestinians are demanding the metal detectors be removed. And today, for Friday prayers, Muslim leaders called on people to come to Jerusalem to pray in the streets.

CORNISH: You were at those prayers. Describe what you saw.

ESTRIN: I was in downtown East Jerusalem. I saw people finishing up prayers. Most of them took their prayer rugs and started walking home. Some Palestinians started chanting. And I saw police charging forward, firing stun grenades. Everyone in the crowd ran. It was a very chaotic scene. I saw objects being thrown from rooftops onto police. Police say Palestinians threw rocks and shot fireworks at police at similar clashes throughout East Jerusalem and also in about 20 other places in the West Bank. And Palestinian medical services say there were a few hundred injuries and also three Palestinians killed.

CORNISH: Then later, after dark in the West Bank, there was this attack on Israelis. What do we know about what happened there?

ESTRIN: Right. It was Friday night during the Jewish Sabbath. The Israeli army says someone, apparently a Palestinian, broke into a home in a Jewish settlement, stabbed actually four Israeli civilians. Emergency services say three of them died - a 60-year-old woman, a 60-year-old man, a 40-year-old man. The Israeli army published a gruesome photo of a kitchen floor covered in blood. And the stabber was shot.

CORNISH: Is there a concern that this could lead to more violence, that it could spin out of control?

ESTRIN: There certainly are those concerns. First of all, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has already taken a very unusual step of announcing that he is freezing contacts with Israel on all levels. He did not clarify what that means. He did not say whether that also means suspending security coordination between Palestinian forces and Israeli forces, which is something that Israel sees as crucial.

So Abbas is freezing ties with Israel. And now we're waiting to see how Israel will respond. And with the stabbing that has killed three Israelis, we could see a tough Israeli response, like arrests, new restrictions on Palestinian movement. And we could see tensions increase even more.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin. He spoke to us from Jerusalem. Thank you.

ESTRIN: You're welcome, Audie.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPIRO SONG, "YELLOW NOISE - LIVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.