Is­rael re­opens Jerusalem holy site hit by fatal at­tack

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD -

By The Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Hun­dreds of Mus­lim wor­ship­pers vis­ited a Jerusalem holy site Sun­day af­ter Is­rael re­opened the com­pound fol­low­ing a rare clo­sure in re­sponse to a deadly shoot­ing last week that raised con­cerns about wider un­rest.

For the first time in decades, Is­rael closed the site — known to Mus­lims as the No­ble Sanc­tu­ary and to Jews as the Tem­ple Mount — on Fri­day af­ter three Arab Is­raelis opened fire from the sa­cred site with au­to­matic weapons, killing two po­lice of­fi­cers. The three were later shot dead in­side the com­pound.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said that fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tions with se­cu­rity of­fi­cials, the site would be re­opened Sun­day af­ter­noon with in­creased se­cu­rity that in­cluded metal de­tec­tors at the en­trance gates and ad­di­tional se­cu­rity cam­eras.

At mid­day, Is­raeli po­lice opened two of the gates to the com­pound to al­low wor­ship­pers to en­ter through the newly erected de­tec­tors. Po­lice said some wor­ship­pers re­fused to go through them and knelt to pray out­side in­stead. But de­spite con­cerns that the new mea- sures could slow move­ment and re­new ten­sions, po­lice said they ap­peared to be work­ing fine and that 200 peo­ple had al­ready passed through.

Is­rael did not co­or­di­nate the changes with Jor­dan, which serves as the cus­to­dian of the Mus­lim-ad­min­is­tered site, ac­cord­ing to a Jor­da­nian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial.

Jor­dan’s po­si­tion is that any­thing in­stalled at the site must be ap­proved by the Waqf, or Mus­lim ad­min­is­tra­tion, and can­not change the sta­tus quo, said the of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the de­vel­op­ing sit­u­a­tion with re­porters.

The Pales­tinian min­is­ter of Jerusalem, Ad­nan Hus­seini, called for the se­cu­rity ar­range­ments to re­turn to how they were be­fore the at­tack, say­ing it “shouldn’t be an ex­cuse for mak­ing changes.”

The at­tack trig­gered a rare phone con­ver­sa­tion between Ne­tanyahu and Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, who con­demned the at­tack and called for the site to be re­opened. Ne­tanyahu sought to al­lay Mus­lim fears, say­ing that the sta­tus quo at the site “will be pre­served.” But Gaza’s Ha­mas rulers called the act a “re­li­gious war” and urged Pales­tini­ans to at­tack again.

Early Sun­day, Is­raeli po­lice said se­cu­rity forces shot dead a Pales­tinian as­sailant be­hind a pair of re­cent shoot­ing at­tacks. Spokesman Micky Rosen­feld said po­lice tracked down the 34-year-old sus­pect in a joint op­er­a­tion with the mil­i­tary. The sus­pect opened fire with an au­to­matic weapon, prompt­ing the troops to re­turn fire, killing him.

The Jerusalem shrine has been the scene of re­peated con- fronta­tions, in­clud­ing dur­ing the cur­rent wave of vi­o­lence.

Is­rael has pre­vi­ously ac­cused Pales­tini­ans of stock­pil­ing rocks and other pro­jec­tiles in one of the mosques in the holy com­pound. Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces have fired tear gas and stun grenades at the com­pound to dis­perse Pales­tinian stone throw­ers, who have at times tar­geted Jews pray­ing at the ad­ja­cent Western Wall.

In Septem­ber 2000, Ariel Sharon — Is­rael’s op­po­si­tion leader at the time — made a provoca­tive visit to the site, bring­ing Pales­tinian protests that quickly es­ca­lated into fight­ing between Pales­tinian gun­men and Is­raeli sol­diers.

The in­ci­dent was a fac­tor be­hind an armed Pales­tinian up­ris­ing and an Is­raeli mil­i­tary crack­down. The vi­o­lence claimed sev­eral thou­sand vic­tims, most of them Pales­tini­ans, and only be­gan to ebb in 2005.


Is­raeli bor­der of­fi­cers stood guard as Mus­lim men prayed out­side the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Sun­day. Se­cu­rity was in­creased, in­clud­ing metal de­tec­tors at en­trance gates and more se­cu­rity cam­eras, al­though some wor­ship­pers ob­jected to the new steps.

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