Mus­lims heed calls to avoid holy site over new Is­raeli se­cu­rity mea­sures ‘We sac­ri­fice our souls and our blood’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Mus­lims heeded calls yes­ter­day not to en­ter a Jerusalem holy site and protested out­side af­ter Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties in­stalled metal de­tec­tors at en­trances to the ul­tra-sen­si­tive com­pound fol­low­ing an at­tack that killed two po­lice­men. The com­pound was largely empty yes­ter­day apart from tourists and Jewish vis­i­tors, with Mus­lims again pray­ing and protest­ing out­side the site in­stead of en­ter­ing through the metal de­tec­tors.

The Haram Al-Sharif com­pound, known to Jews as the Tem­ple Mount, in­cludes the Dome of the Rock and the AlAqsa mosque. Sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple could be seen pray­ing out­side two dif­fer­ent en­trances to the site yes­ter­day. There were protests af­ter the prayer, with crowds shout­ing: “Aqsa mosque, we sac­ri­fice our souls and our blood.” Po­lice later sought to move them back. “We will not break the sol­i­dar­ity of the peo­ple,” said Ja­mal Ab­dal­lah, a Pales­tinian who now lives in the US state of Ari­zona and was plan­ning to visit Al-Aqsa, but changed his mind when he was told of the sit­u­a­tion.

Height­ened ten­sions

Is­rael in­stalled the metal de­tec­tors af­ter Fri­day’s at­tack near the holy site that saw three Arab Is­raelis open fire on Is­raeli po­lice. They then fled to the com­pound, where they were shot dead by se­cu­rity forces. It was among the most se­ri­ous in­ci­dents in Jerusalem in re­cent years and height­ened Is­raeli-Pales­tinian ten­sions. Is­rael took the highly un­usual de­ci­sion of clos­ing the com­pound for Fri­day prayers, trig­ger­ing anger from Mus­lims and Jor­dan, the holy site’s cus­to­dian.

The site re­mained closed on Satur­day, and parts of Jerusalem’s Old City were also un­der lock­down. Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties said the clo­sure was nec­es­sary to carry out se­cu­rity checks, adding that the as­sailants had come from within the holy site to com­mit the at­tack. They be­gan re­open­ing it on Sun­day, but with metal de­tec­tors in place, while se­cu­rity cam­eras were also be­ing in­stalled in the area. Al-Aqsa of­fi­cials have re­fused to en­ter and have called on wor­ship­pers to do the same. Pales­tini­ans view the new mea­sures as Is­rael as­sert­ing fur­ther con­trol over the site. Crowds chanted “Al­lahu Ak­bar” (God is Great­est) as they gath­ered near the Lions Gate en­trance to Jerusalem’s Old City on Sun­day. On Sun­day night, skir­mishes broke out be­tween Is­raeli po­lice and wor­ship­pers out­side the en­trance, with the Red Cres­cent re­port­ing 17 peo­ple wounded.

With ten­sions high, two mosques in the north­ern Is­raeli Arab town of Maghar were tar­geted overnight, one with a stun grenade and an­other by gun­shots. No se­ri­ous dam­age was re­ported. One of the two po­lice­men killed in Fri­day’s at­tack lived in Maghar. Both of the of­fi­cers were from the Druze mi­nor­ity, Arabs who be­long to an off­shoot of Shi­ite Is­lam.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu took the de­ci­sion to in­stall the metal de­tec­tors and cam­eras fol­low­ing a meet­ing with se­cu­rity of­fi­cials on Satur­day. He also spoke by phone with Jor­dan’s King Ab­dul­lah II on Satur­day night be­fore leav­ing on a trip to France and Hun­gary.

Ab­dul­lah con­demned the at­tack, but also called on Ne­tanyahu to re­open the Al-Aqsa com­pound and stressed the need to “avoid any es­ca­la­tion at the site”. Pales­tinian pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas con­veyed a sim­i­lar mes­sage to Ne­tanyahu when the two spoke by phone on Fri­day in the wake of the at­tack. Ha­mas, the Is­lamist move­ment that runs the Gaza Strip and Ab­bas’s ri­val, has wel­comed the at­tack, call­ing it “a nat­u­ral re­sponse to the Zion­ist ter­ror­ism and the des­e­cra­tion of the Al-Aqsa mosque”. Yes­ter­day in a joint state­ment, Ha­mas and Is­lamic Ji­had called for demon­stra­tions over Al-Aqsa. “We call for an end to all the Zion­ist mea­sures and for the ex­trem­ist govern­ment to take its hands off the blessed AlAqsa mosque,” it said. Pro­pos­als to change se­cu­rity mea­sures at the com­pound have sparked con­tro­versy in the past. A plan de­vel­oped in 2015 be­tween Is­rael and Jor­dan to in­stall cam­eras at the site it­self fell apart amid dis­agree­ment over how they would be op­er­ated.

The Haram Al-Sharif/Tem­ple Mount is cen­tral to the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict. It is in east Jerusalem, oc­cu­pied by Is­rael in 1967 and later an­nexed in a move never rec­og­nized by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. It is con­sid­ered the third holi­est site in Is­lam and the most sa­cred for Jews. Jews are al­lowed to visit but not pray there to avoid pro­vok­ing ten­sions. — AFP

—AFP

JERUSALEM: Is­raeli bor­der guards de­tain a Pales­tinian youth dur­ing a de­mon­stra­tion out­side the Lions Gate, a main en­trance to Al-Aqsa mosque com­pound, due to newly-im­ple­mented se­cu­rity mea­sures by Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties which in­clude metal de­tec­tors and cam­eras.

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