The Israeli government, attempting to calm days of violence which has claimed seven lives, has removed metal detectors from entrances to the Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Israelis have said they’ll instead use more CCTV cameras for the security of the site which is revered in Christian, Jewish as well as Muslim religions. Not surprisingly Palestinians say the modified security measures are still unacceptable.
Israel installed metal detectors at entry points to Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem after two police officers were fatally shot on July 14, triggering the bloodiest clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in years.
The spike in tensions and the deaths of three Israelis and four Palestinians in violence on Friday and Saturday raised international alarm and prompted a session of the United Nations Security Council to consider ways of defusing the crisis.
“All parties should work to reduce these tensions and we offer whatever assistance we can in helping to do this,” Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council in New York.
However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the senior Muslim cleric who oversees Al Aqsa compound both dismissed the new Israeli measures and demanded all of them be removed.
“All new Israeli measures put in place since [July 14] must be removed so things can go back to normal in Jerusalem and we can resume our work regarding bilateral relations,” Mr Abbas said at the beginning of a meeting with the Palestinian leadership.
The Waqf, the religious body that runs the Islamic sites in the Al Aqsa compound, said worshippers would continue to stay away from the elevated, marble-and-stone plaza — Islam’s third holiest site — and pray in the streets outside.
A Waqf spokesman said it was awaiting a decision of a technical committee but was demanding the situation revert to the way it was before the metal detectors were installed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet of senior ministers voted to remove the metal detector gates early on Tuesday (local time) after a meeting lasting several hours.
A statement issued after the security cabinet meeting said it had decided to heed a recommendation of Israeli security bodies and replace the detectors with “smart checking” devices.
The high-resolution cameras can detect hidden objects are the alternative to the metal detectors. Muslim religious officials – who allege Israel is trying to expand its control at the site – said they would accept only a return to the arrangements for access to the compound that had been in place before an incident on July 14, when two Israeli policemen were shot by three Israeli Arab gunmen who had smuggled weapons on to the site.
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