Is­rael re­moves metal de­tec­tors amid boy­cott

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

JERUSALEM: Is­rael re­moved metal de­tec­tors from a highly sen­si­tive Jerusalem holy site yes­ter­day af­ter their in­stal­la­tion trig­gered deadly vi­o­lence, but Mus­lim wor­ship­pers sus­pi­cious over what would come next kept up a boy­cott. Is­rael’s move came in the face of in­ten­sive in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy seek­ing to pre­vent the dis­pute over the Haram Al-Sharif mosque com­pound, known to Jews as the Tem­ple Mount, from spark­ing wider Pales­tinian un­rest.

The gov­ern­ment said it would in­tro­duce sub­tler mea­sures in­stead to se­cure the com­pound hous­ing the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock, fol­low­ing a July 14 deadly at­tack on Is­raeli po­lice nearby. A work crew re­moved the metal de­tec­tors from one en­trance to the com­pound early yes­ter­day, and cam­eras in­stalled on over­head scaf­fold­ing in re­cent days were also gone. But sus­pi­cions over what the new mea­sures would en­tail re­sulted in the boy­cott con­tin­u­ing.

Sev­eral hun­dred wor­ship­pers prayed out­side the gates in the streets in the sum­mer heat, as they have done since the metal de­tec­tors were in­stalled more than a week ago. “What we want and what we de­mand is for ev­ery­thing to re­turn how it was be­fore July 14,” said Mo­hammed Hi­jazi, who came sev­eral days ago from Acre in north­ern Is­rael to join the protests. “When that hap­pens we are ready to re­turn to en­ter the Al-Aqsa mosque to pray to God Almighty.” Is­rael’s se­cu­rity cabi­net an­nounced the de­ci­sion to re­move the de­tec­tors early yes­ter­day.

They de­cided “to change the in­spec­tion with metal de­tec­tors to a se­cu­rity in­spec­tion based on ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies and other means,” Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s of­fice said. De­tails of the ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies en­vis­aged were not im­me­di­ately clear. A state­ment from the Waqf, the Is­lamic en­dow­ments or­ga­ni­za­tion which ad­min­is­ters the com­pound, said there should be “no en­try into Al-Aqsa mosque un­til af­ter an as­sess­ment by a Waqf tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee and the re­turn of the sit­u­a­tion to how it was be­fore the 14th of this month”.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan urged all Mus­lims to visit Jerusalem to pro­tect the holy places. “Any­one who has the op­por­tu­nity should visit Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa mosque,” Er­do­gan said in Ankara. “Come, let’s all pro­tect Jerusalem.” Pales­tinian pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, who froze con­tacts with Is­rael over the dis­pute last week, was ex­pected to make a state­ment later.

Is­rael in­stalled metal de­tec­tors at en­trances to the com­pound af­ter the July 14 at­tack nearby killed two po­lice­men. Pales­tini­ans viewed the new se­cu­rity mea­sures as Is­rael as­sert­ing fur­ther con­trol over the site and re­fused to en­ter the com­pound. Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties said the de­tec­tors were needed be­cause the at­tack­ers smug­gled guns into the com­pound and emerged from it to shoot the of­fi­cers.

The de­ci­sion to re­move the de­tec­tors fol­lowed talks be­tween Ne­tanyahu and Jor­dan’s King Ab­dul­lah II, who de­manded that they be taken away. Jor­dan is the of­fi­cial cus­to­dian of Mus­lim holy sites in Jerusalem and is one of only two Arab gov­ern­ments to have signed a peace treaty with Is­rael. It also came af­ter one of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s top aides, Ja­son Green­blatt, ar­rived in Is­rael for talks on the cri­sis and with UN Mid­dle East en­voy Nick­o­lay Mlade­nov warn­ing of the risks of es­ca­la­tion.

A sep­a­rate diplo­matic stand­off be­tween Is­rael and Jor­dan may have helped push ne­go­ti­a­tions on the metal de­tec­tors along. On Sun­day night in Am­man, an Is­raeli em­bassy se­cu­rity guard shot dead a Jor­da­nian who at­tacked him with a screw­driver, ac­cord­ing to Is­raeli of­fi­cials. A sec­ond Jor­da­nian was also killed, ap­par­ently by ac­ci­dent. Is­rael had in­sisted the se­cu­rity guard had diplo­matic im­mu­nity and re­jected Jor­da­nian de­mands to ques­tion him.

But on Mon­day night, the guard and other diplo­mats ar­rived home af­ter a deal also in­volv­ing the mosque com­pound. “Am­man au­tho­rized the Is­raeli diplo­mat to leave the coun­try af­ter hear­ing his ac­count of the in­ci­dent... and af­ter reach­ing an un­der­stand­ing with the (Is­raeli) gov­ern­ment on Al-Aqsa,” a Jor­da­nian gov­ern­ment source said.

Yes­ter­day, thou­sands of Jor­da­ni­ans chanted “Death to Is­rael” at the fu­neral of the 17-year-old said to have at­tacked the guard. Mourn­ers ac­com­pa­nied Mo­hammed Jawawdeh’s cof­fin from Wi­h­dat city, home to a large Pales­tinian refugee camp. “Mo­hammed’s blood did not flow in vain,” Jawawdeh’s un­cle Sami said, ar­gu­ing it paved the way for Is­rael’s re­moval of the metal de­tec­tors.

Fri­day’s main weekly Mus­lim prayers in Jerusalem which typ­i­cally draw thou­sands to Al-Aqsa - had brought the dis­pute to a boil. Clashes erupted be­tween Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces and Pales­tini­ans around the Old City, else­where in an­nexed east Jerusalem and in the oc­cu­pied West Bank, leav­ing three Pales­tini­ans dead. They con­tin­ued on Satur­day, leav­ing two more Pales­tini­ans dead. Fri­day evening also saw a Pales­tinian break into a home in a Jewish set­tle­ment in the West Bank dur­ing a Sab­bath din­ner and stab four Is­raelis, killing three.

The mosque com­pound has served as a ral­ly­ing cry for Pales­tini­ans. In 2000, a visit to it by then Is­raeli op­po­si­tion leader Ariel Sharon helped ig­nite the sec­ond Pales­tinian in­tifada, or up­ris­ing. The com­pound lies in east Jerusalem, seized by Is­rael in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later an­nexed in a move never rec­og­nized by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Con­sid­ered the third-holi­est site in Is­lam, it is the most sa­cred for Jews.

— AP

JERUSALEM: Pales­tini­ans pray as Is­raeli bor­der po­lice of­fi­cers stand guard at Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City yes­ter­day.

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