Is­rael re­opens Jerusalem holy site

Ten­sions re­main af­ter Pales­tini­ans protest the ad­di­tion of metal de­tec­tors fol­low­ing a deadly shootout.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Joshua Mit­nick

TEL AVIV — Is­rael re­opened the Tem­ple Mount plaza out­side Al Aqsa Mosque on Sunday for the first time since a deadly shootout at the Jerusalem holy site two days ear­lier, but ten­sions per­sisted as Pales­tini­ans protested the new metal de­tec­tors placed at the en­trance to the com­pound.

The Old City plaza, revered by Jews and Mus­lims, was shut­tered to wor­shipers and tourists alike af­ter three Is­raeli Arabs used im­pro­vised ma­chine guns to kill two Is­raeli Druze po­lice­men on Fri­day morn­ing and then were killed by po­lice. Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties said the use of live weapons in an at­tack on se­cu­rity forces at the holy site was “un­prece­dented.”

The re­open­ing of the es­planade should have de­fused emo­tions af­ter Fri­day prayers were can­celed for the first time in decades. But the new equip­ment fanned crit­i­cism and protests that Is­rael had uni­lat­er­ally changed the rules re­gard­ing re­li­gious wor­ship and tourist vis­its at the com­plex.

Is­rael said that the metal de­tec­tors — set up out­side the Old City’s Li­ons Gate and the Ma­jlis Gate — were a part of tight­ened se­cu­rity mea­sures in Jerusalem’s Old City af­ter the at­tack. In ad­di­tion, po­lice will in­stall cam­eras out­side the es­planade to mon­i­tor the com­pound.

Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity and re­li­gious of­fi­cials held an emer­gency meet­ing in the West Bank city of Ra­mal­lah to discuss the se­cu­rity mea­sures, and called on Arab and Mus­lim na­tions to in­ter­vene against the Is­raeli moves.

A Pales­tinian gov­ern­ment state­ment called the se­cu­rity mea­sures “null and void” and “a vi­o­la­tion of the sanc­tity of the Al Aqsa Mosque.”

Of­fi­cials from the Mus­lim Waqf, the au­thor­ity that runs the holy site, urged fol­low­ers to re­main out­side the com­pound in protest rather than pass through the metal de­tec­tors.

Dozens of wor­shipers held mid­day prayers just feet away from the metal de­tec­tors, which were op­er­ated by Is­raeli bor­der po­lice in riot gear. In the even­ing, brief scuf­fles broke out be­tween po­lice and demon­stra­tors gath­ered at the metal de­tec­tors.

“The Is­raelis have im­posed se­vere se­cu­rity re­stric­tions on the Mus­lim wor­shipers,” said Omar Kiswani, the di­rec­tor of Al Aqsa Mosque. “We urge them to pray out­side the gates of the mosque un­til the Is­raeli au­thor­ity re­moves all the se­cu­rity mea­sures and things will go back to nor­mal.”

Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties said that sev­eral hun­dred Mus­lim wor­shipers nonethe­less en­tered the com­pound — though it was sig­nif­i­cantly fewer than the usual num­ber of vis­i­tors.

“The Waqf is try­ing to in­sti­gate wor­shipers to refuse to pass through the gates and the metal de­tec­tors,” said Is­raeli Public Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Gi­lad Er­dan.

The plaza is holy to Jews as the site of their an­cient tem­ple, while Mus­lims re­vere it as the site where the prophet Muham­mad is said to have risen to heaven.

At the West­ern Wall plaza be­low the com­pound, wor­shipers and tourists have been sub­jected to metal de­tec­tor checks for years.

Vi­o­lent clashes on the Tem­ple Mount — called the No­ble Sanc­tu­ary by Mus­lims — have been the spark for pro­longed and deadly waves of Is­raeli-Pales­tinian vi­o­lence in the past: Ri­ot­ing on the plaza that broke out in 2000 af­ter the visit of Is­rael’s Ariel Sharon to the site sparked a years-long up­ris­ing dubbed Al Aqsa In­tifada.

The newly in­flamed ten­sions around the holy site have spurred jit­ters in the re­gion about fresh vi­o­lence.

In a state­ment Satur­day, the U.S. de­fended Is­rael’s clos­ing of the holy site to in­ves­ti­gate the at­tack, and urged lead­ers in the re­gion to be “un­der­stand­ing” of the move.

French President Em­manuel Macron, who met with Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu in Paris on Sunday, con­demned the “odi­ous” at­tack and called for a re­sump­tion of ne­go­ti­a­tions aimed at a so-called two-state so­lu­tion for peace be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans.

Jor­dan’s King Ab­dul­lah II, who is the of­fi­cial cus­to­dian of Jerusalem’s Mus­lim holy sites un­der the coun­try’s peace treaty with Is­rael, held a phone con­ver­sa­tion Satur­day with Ne­tanyahu. Ab­dul­lah said there was a need for “de-es­ca­la­tion” at the holy site and “re­jected” the clo­sure, ac­cord­ing to Jor­dan’s state news agency Pe­tra.

Dur­ing a phone call Fri­day, Ne­tanyahu told Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity President Mah­moud Ab­bas that Is­rael had no in­ten­tion of chang­ing the re­li­gious sta­tus quo at the site.

But Ir Amim, an Is­raeli peace or­ga­ni­za­tion that mon­i­tors Jerusalem, said the metal de­tec­tors and se­cu­rity checks “im­pose Is­raeli sovereignty in vi­o­la­tion of ar­range­ments estab­lished and re­spected” since Is­rael cap­tured the Old City in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Pho­tographs by Ah­mad Gharabli AFP/Getty Im­ages

IS­RAELI BOR­DER po­lice guard the newly in­stalled metal de­tec­tors at the en­trance to the com­pound that in­cludes Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Is­rael re­opened the site two days af­ter an “un­prece­dented” at­tack by three Is­raeli Arab men on two Is­raeli Druze po­lice­men.

WOR­SHIPERS who re­fused to en­ter the com­pound be­cause of the metal de­tec­tors pray out­side the Li­ons Gate. A Pales­tinian state­ment called the se­cu­rity mea­sures “a vi­o­la­tion of the sanc­tity of the Al Aqsa Mosque.”

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