Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke by phone late Thursday with Jared Kushner, senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, reportedly to ask that the White House pressure Israel to remove metal detectors installed at the Temple Mount following last Friday’s deadly terror attack.
According to Hebrew-language media, Abbas told Kushner that tensions over the holy site were a serious concern, and that they threatened to get out of control if Israel did not back down.
Abbas held emergency meetings with senior members of his Fatah party on Friday to discuss the escalating tensions. The meetings with the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee were intended to decide on the Palestinian response to Israel’s decision early Friday to leave the metal detectors in place on the Temple Mount despite Palestinian protests.
Palestinian officials have denounced the increased security at the site as a change in the delicate status quo that governs the site. Israel has denied this, saying the new measures were necessitated by last Friday’s attack, in which three Arab-Israelis emerged armed from the compound and shot dead two Israeli police officers stationed just outside. On Thursday, Israel police released video footage showing the weapons being smuggled onto the Mount.
Abbas spoke on Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, asking him to pressure Israel to remove the metal detectors. He reportedly also contacted other regional leaders and a United Nations committee in a bid to force Israel’s hand.
Early on Friday morning, Israel Police forces arrested at least 10 Fatah officials in Jerusalem who were suspected of inciting violence in the city, including Hatem Abd Al-Qader, who holds Fatah’s Jerusalem portfolio, and Adnan Gaith, the head of Fatah’s Tanzim wing in Jerusalem.
Right-wing Jewish groups also filed a complaint against the Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, accusing him of inciting violence. According to the complaint, while Hussein stood at the Lions Gate on Thursday, he exhorted his followers that “Al-Aqsa is worth more than [the Jews’] blood and is more valuable than their souls.”
Ofer Golan, a right-wing activist, complained to police that this was “clear incitement to murder Jews.”
“The police must arrest the mufti immediately before the next attack on civilians and policemen,” he said.
Last Friday, following the deadly attack, Israel initially closed the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, as it searched for more weapons. The compound, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, was reopened Sunday with metal detectors installed, a step Palestinians protested as a change to the longstanding status quo. Israel denied this and noted that those who enter the Western Wall plaza below have long been required to pass through metal detectors, while the only entrance for Jews to the Temple Mount has long required that they pass through metal detectors to be allowed in.
The Temple Mount is the holiest place to Jews, as the site of the biblical temples. But Israel, which captured the Old City in the 1967 war, bars Jews from praying there.