August 20, 2017 / 5:14 PM / in 2 years

Israeli opposition says Abbas tried to resume security ties with Israel

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli opposition lawmakers on Sunday that he had proposed rolling back his month-old suspension of security coordination with Israel, but that it did not respond to the overture, the delegation said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stands during a reception ceremony for Jordan's King Abdullah II in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 7, 2017. Picture taken August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Abbas suspended ties on July 21, demanding that Israel remove metal detectors it had installed outside a Jerusalem compound housing the Al-Aqsa mosque in response to the killing of two of its police guards by gunmen who had holed up there.

Amid Palestinian and Jordanian unrest, and U.S. mediation efforts, Israel dismantled the walk-through gates on July 25 and said it would install less obtrusive security measures.

“We recently communicated with them (Israeli security officials) in an attempt to resume some kind of cooperation,” Abbas told a visiting delegation from Israel’s left-wing Meretz party, according to a statement issued by the lawmakers.

“But they have not returned an answer, something that has prevented progress in thawing ties,” he was quoted as saying.

Abbas aides were not immediately available for comment. His administration’s relations with Israel are resented by many Palestinians, such as those from rival Islamist movement Hamas.

A Netanyahu aide, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said: “These reported remarks are simply incorrect.” The aide declined to elaborate, citing policy of not publishing details on security contacts with the Palestinians.

Despite their impasse in peace negotiations, both sides view the coordination as a means of tamping down violence in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians have limited self-rule.

Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest shrine, is among areas Israel captured from Jordan in a 1967 war, and where Palestinians want statehood. Jews revere the site as vestige of their two ancient temples. Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan have tried to stave off religious tensions there with delicate access arrangements.

Palestinians deemed the metal detectors a breach of this decades-old status quo. As violent protests surged, Israeli forces killed four Palestinians. A Palestinian also knifed three Israelis to death in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

According to the Meretz statement, Abbas said on Sunday that his administration had doubled monitoring of the area since the killing of the two police guards by three Israeli Arab gunmen.

Palestinian security forces do not have a formal presence in Jerusalem, all of which Israel claims as its capital - a status not recognised internationally.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jon Boyle

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