Israel dismantling detectors at shrine
Diplomatic clash with Jordan settled
JERUSALEM — Israel began removing metal detectors from entrances to a major Jerusalem shrine early this morning to defuse a crisis over the site that angered the Muslim world and triggered some of the worst Israeli-Palestinian clashes in years.
The Israeli security Cabinet had met for a second straight day Monday to find an alternative to the metal detectors, which were installed after a deadly Palestinian attack at the holy site.
Associated Press photos showed a worker dismantling one of the devices at Lions Gate before 2 a.m.
“The Security Cabinet accepted the recommendation of all of the security bodies to incorporate security measures based on advanced technologies [“smart checks”] and other measures instead of metal detectors,” Israel announced this morning.
It said the measure will “ensure the security of visitors and worshippers” at the Al-Aqsa compound and in Jerusalem’s Old City. It added that police will increase its forces in the area until the new security measures are in place.
The 37-acre walled compound is the third holiest site of Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. It is also the holiest site of Judaism, revered as the place where biblical temples once stood.
Israeli media earlier reported high resolution cameras capable of detecting hidden objects would be deployed.
Israel installed the metal detectors after Arab gunmen killed two policemen from inside the shrine, holy to Muslims and Jews, earlier this month. The move incensed the Muslim world and triggered violence.
The fate of the site is an emotional issue at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Even the smallest perceived change to delicate arrangements pertaining to the site sparks tensions.
Just a few hours earlier, Israel and Jordan resolved a diplomatic standoff after a day of high-level negotiations that ended with the evacuation of Israeli Embassy staff members from their base in Jordan to Israel.
The crisis had been triggered by a shooting Sunday in which an Israeli Embassy guard killed two Jordanians after one attacked him with a screwdriver. Jordan initially said the guard could only leave after an investigation, while Israel said he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
The matter was resolved after a phone call late Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
Jordan’s Public Security Directorate said the incident began when two Jordanians arrived at the building to set up bedroom furniture, including the son of the owner of the furniture store, later identified as 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh.
It said a verbal dispute flared between the teen and the embassy employee because of a delay in delivering the furniture.
The argument took place in the presence of the landlord and a doorman, the agency said.
“The son of the owner attacked the Israeli diplomat and injured him,” the statement said. It said the Israeli fired toward the teen, injuring him, and also struck the landlord who was standing nearby.
The two Jordanians died of their injuries at a hospital.
Information for this article was contributed by Mohammed Daraghmeh, Omar Akour and Edith M. Lederer of The Associated Press.