Metal de­tec­tors to stay at shrine: Ne­tanyahu

Pales­tini­ans plan protests for Fri­day over se­cu­rity en­hance­ments im­posed at holy site

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - IAN DEITCH

JERUSALEM — Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu sig­nalled Wednes­day that he’s stick­ing to a de­ci­sion to in­stall metal de­tec­tors at a con­tested Jerusalem shrine, de­spite ris­ing ten­sions and a Mus­lim call for mass protests in the city.

Ne­tanyahu, who was in Hun­gary, spoke by phone with Is­raeli se­cu­rity chiefs about the es­ca­la­tion in Jerusalem and was to hold more con­sul­ta­tions af­ter his re­turn to Is­rael on Thurs­day.

The mass protests are set for Fri­day, the high­light of the Mus­lim re­li­gious week, when tens of thou­sands of Mus­lims typ­i­cally at­tend prayers in the walled com­pound in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Mean­while, sev­eral thou­sand Pales­tinian Mus­lims prayed Wednes­day evening in the streets near Lion’s Gate, one of the en­trances to the shrine that was fit­ted with metal de­tec­tors. Such prayers, with the faith­ful kneel­ing in or­derly lines on the pave­ment, have been the main form of protest this week, sig­nalling their re­fusal to pass through the metal de­tec­tors.

Con­flicts over the holy site, revered by Mus­lims and Jews, have re­peat­edly trig­gered Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­fronta­tions. The site — known as the Tem­ple Mount to Jews and Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanc­tu­ary, to Mus­lims — is at the heart of the con­flict.

The lat­est es­ca­la­tion be­gan last week when three Pales­tini­ans launched an at­tack from there, killing two Is­raeli po­lice of­fi­cers at a gate to the Mus­lim-ad­min­is­tered com­pound.

In re­sponse, Is­rael be­gan in­stalling metal de­tec­tors, a move Mus­lim re­li­gious lead­ers and Pales­tinian politi­cians al­lege is part of an Is­raeli at­tempt to ex­pand con­trol at the site.

Is­rael has de­nied such al­le­ga­tions, say­ing metal de­tec­tors are rou­tine se­cu­rity de­vices used at holy sites around the world.

Mus­lim cler­ics on Wednes­day urged the faith­ful to forego prayers in neigh­bour­hood mosques on Fri­day and con­verge on the shrine, in an at­tempt to draw larger crowds. Wor­ship­pers were asked to pray in the streets rather than sub­mit to the new se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures.

Ne­tanyahu spoke to Is­raeli se­cu­rity chiefs by phone on Wednes­day. “There is no change re­gard­ing the metal de­tec­tors,” he told re­porters in Bu­dapest.

Is­raeli me­dia re­ported that se­cu­rity chiefs are at odds over the new de­vices. Is­rael’s Shin Bet se­cu­rity ser­vice, which closely mon­i­tors Pales­tinian so­ci­ety, re­port­edly op­poses the metal de­tec­tors as coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, while po­lice sup­port the new mea­sures.

Ne­tanyahu said Is­rael is in close con­tact with Jor­dan, the tra­di­tional Mus­lim cus­to­dian of the shrine. Ne­tanyahu said Jor­dan wants to “end this as qui­etly as pos­si­ble.”

Ne­tanyahu re­jected Mus­lim al­le­ga­tions that Is­rael is chang­ing long­stand­ing ar­range­ments at the shrine. “We should look at the facts and the truth — the in­stal­la­tion of metal de­tec­tors does not con­sti­tute any change in the sta­tus quo,” he said. “It is only meant to pre­vent a re­peat of an at­tack with weapons.”

Jor­da­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Ay­man Safadi said the key to restor­ing calm is to have Is­rael re­spect the “his­toric and le­gal sta­tus” at the shrine, the state news agency Pe­tra re­ported.

ILIA YEFIMOVICH, GETTY IM­AGES

Pales­tini­ans clash out­side the en­trance to the old city of Jerusalem as it is par­tially blocked by po­lice on Wednes­day.

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