Is­rael re­moves con­tro­ver­sial se­cu­rity mea­sures from shrine

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

JERUSALEM, Mid­dle East — Pales­tini­ans were sched­uled to re­turn to pray at a sen­si­tive Jerusalem holy site on Thurs­day af­ter Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties re­moved con­tro­ver­sial se­cu­rity mea­sures there, po­ten­tially end­ing a nearly two-week cri­sis that sparked deadly un­rest.

Mus­lim au­thor­i­ties an­nounced a boy­cott of the Haram al-Sharif com­pound, known to Jews as the Tem­ple Mount, was to end on Thurs­day af­ter­noon af­ter Is­rael re­moved re­main­ing new se­cu­rity mea­sures.

The com­pound in­cludes the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Pales­tini­ans had boy­cotted it since the se­cu­rity mea­sures were in­stalled fol­low­ing a July 14 at­tack nearby that killed two po­lice­men.

Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas joined calls for wor­ship­pers to re­turn to the site.

“The prayers will hap­pen, God will­ing, inside the Al-Aqsa mosque,” Ab­bas said.

Ab­bas an­nounced a freeze on con­tacts with Is­rael last week over the dis­pute, in­clud­ing se­cu­rity co­or­di­na­tion, and said on Thurs­day a meet­ing would be held on whether to lift it.

A tense stand­off had been un­der­way be­tween Is­rael and Mus­lim wor­ship­pers at the holy site for nearly two weeks de­spite the re­moval of metal de­tec­tors on Tues­day. Most Mus­lims have avoided en­ter­ing the com­pound, pray­ing in­stead in the streets.

Newly in­stalled rail­ings and scaf­fold­ing where cam­eras were pre­vi­ously mounted were also re­moved early on Thurs­day from the Haram al-Sharif com­pound.

Po­lice said on Thurs­day morn­ing that all new se­cu­rity mea­sures had now been re­moved.

The re­moval of the in­stal­la­tions overnight prompted Pales­tinian crowds to cel­e­brate in the streets near the site.

Celebrations at site

Mus­lims had re­fused to en­ter the com­pound and prayed in the streets out­side af­ter Is­rael in­stalled the new se­cu­rity mea­sures.

Pales­tini­ans viewed the move as Is­rael as­sert­ing fur­ther con­trol over the com­pound.

Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties said the metal de­tec­tors were needed be­cause the July 14 at­tack­ers smug­gled guns into the com­pound and emerged from it to at­tack the of­fi­cers.

Deadly un­rest has erupted since the new mea­sures were in­tro­duced, with clashes break­ing out around the com­pound and in the oc­cu­pied West Bank, leav­ing five Pales­tini­ans dead.

There had been con­cerns that Friday’s main weekly Mus­lim prayers — which typ­i­cally draw thou­sands to Al-Aqsa — would lead to se­ri­ous clashes be­tween pro­test­ers and Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces if a res­o­lu­tion was not found. Mus­lims had threat­ened a “day of rage” on Friday.

In the pre-dawn hours of Thurs­day, crowds of Pales­tini­ans gath­ered at the en­trance of the site to cel­e­brate the re­moval of the re­main­ing se­cu­rity in­stal­la­tions, with whistling and con­stant horns from cars.

Young men set off fire­crack­ers as Is­raeli forces watched closely.

Fi­ras Abasi said he felt like cry­ing over the “vic­tory”.

Fol­low­ing in­ten­sive in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy and warn­ings of the po­ten­tial for wider un­rest, Is­rael re­moved the metal de­tec­tors early on Tues­day.

Cam­eras in­stalled af­ter the at­tack on the po­lice were also re­moved.

But Is­raeli of­fi­cials said pre­vi­ously they were to be re­placed with “ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies” — widely be­lieved to be smart cam­eras with fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy.

The re­main­ing in­stal­la­tions and sus­pi­cions over what new mea­sures Is­rael was plan­ning had led Pales­tinian and Mus­lim lead­ers to con­tinue to urge a boy­cott of the site, and wor­ship­pers had heeded their call.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear if Is­rael would stick to re­ported plans to in­stall a smart cam­era sys­tem in Jerusalem’s Old City. Cam­eras are al­ready wide­spread inside its walls.

The prayers will hap­pen, God will­ing, inside the Al-Aqsa mosque.” Mah­mud Ab­bas, Pales­tinian pres­i­dent, join­ing the calls for wor­ship­pers to re­turn to holy site af­ter a nearly two-week boy­cott

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