Israel removes metal detectors from entrances to holy site
JERUSALEM» Israel began removing metal detectors from entrances to a major Jerusalem shrine early Tuesday 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.
A worker was 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 Tuesday morning.
It said the measure will “ensure the security of visitors and worshippers” at the holy site and in Jerusalem’s Old City. It added that police will increase forces in the area until the new security measures are in place.
Israeli media reported high-resolution cameras capable of detecting hidden objects would be deployed.
Israel erected the metal detectors after Arab gunmen killed two policemen from inside the shrine, holy to Muslims and Jews, this month. The move incensed Muslims 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 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 crisis was resolved after a phone call late Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
Media reports had said the deal could see the embassy security guard released in exchange for the removal of the metal detectors.
The 37-acre walled compound in Jerusalem 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.
Jordan is the Muslim custodian of the site.
Netanyahu and Jordan’s king discuss the shrine in their phone call, Jordan’s state news agency Petra said.
The king stressed the need to “remove the measures taken by the Israeli side since the recent crisis broke out” and to agree on steps that would prevent another escalation in the future, Petra said.