Israel removes more security installations outside Temple Mount
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Palestinians whistle and dance; one hails 'victory'

Israel removes more security installations outside Temple Mount

Railings, scaffolding for cameras dismantled at entrance to sensitive holy site, a day after metal detectors were taken down

Palestinians celebrate outside the Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 27 2017 after more Israeli barriers were removed from the Temple Mount. (AFP / AHMAD GHARABLI)
Palestinians celebrate outside the Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 27 2017 after more Israeli barriers were removed from the Temple Mount. (AFP / AHMAD GHARABLI)

Israel late Wednesday removed minor security installations, including fairly flimsy metal railings, from an entrance to the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, a sensitive holy site that has been at the center of violence over the past two weeks in the wake of a terror attack in which two Israeli police officers were killed near the compound. The Muslim authorities who administer the site had demanded that the railings be removed, among other steps, in a list given to Israel Police earlier Wednesday.

In response to the July 14 attack, in which three Arab Israelis killed the two officers near the Lions Gate with guns they had smuggled into the holy site, Israel installed security measures at the entrances, including metal detectors, which set off protests and deadly unrest in and around East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Early on Tuesday, Israel had removed the metal detectors. Late on Wednesday night, newly installed railings and scaffolding where cameras were previously mounted were also removed from the Lions Gate area near the entrance to the Mount.

The removal of the railings and scaffolding late Wednesday prompted celebrations by Palestinians, who danced, whistled and honked their horns near the site.

Young Palestinian men set of firecrackers as Israeli forces watched closely.

One Palestinian man described the event as a “victory.”

“For 12 days no one has slept, no one has done anything except the Al-Aqsa mosque,” Firas Abasi told AFP.

A tense standoff has been underway between Israel and Muslim worshipers at the holy site despite the removal of the metal detectors, with concerns of major unrest later this week if no resolution is found.

Muslims have refused to enter the site and have prayed in the streets outside for more than a week after Israel installed the new security measures.

It was not immediately clear whether Muslim authorities would now give their approval to re-enter the site. They had demanded that all security changes at access points to the compound be removed, and on Wednesday gave a list of such demands to Israel Police. The list included reopening five gates to the Temple Mount closed in the latest crisis, the removal of five new cameras installed in the Mount area, and the removal of the metal railings placed at the entrances.

A truck removes the remaining barriers from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on July 27, 2017. (AFP / AHMAD GHARABLI)
A truck removes the remaining barriers from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on July 27, 2017. (AFP / AHMAD GHARABLI)

Palestinians perceived the security measures as a move by Israel to assert further control over the site, a charge Israel has repeatedly denied.

Israeli authorities said the metal detectors were needed because the July 14 attackers were able to smuggle guns into the site.

Israeli security forces take down metal detectors at the Lions' Gate, near a main entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 24, 2017. (AFP/ Ahmad GHARABLI)
Israeli security forces take down metal detectors at the Lions’ Gate, near a main entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 24, 2017. (AFP/ Ahmad GHARABLI)

Protests and deadly unrest have erupted in the days since the measures were installed, with clashes breaking out around the compound in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the West Bank.

Five Palestinians were killed in clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli police over the weekend.

On Friday night, a Palestinian terrorist broke into a home of a family sitting down for Shabbat dinner in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, stabbing three of the family members to death.

The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has frozen ties with Israel over the episode, and Abbas on Wednesday approved mass demonstrations on a “day of rage” scheduled for Friday. The Hamas terror group also called for protests on Friday.

(L-R) Yosef, Elad and Chaya Salomon who were stabbed to death in the Halamish settlement on July 21, 2017. (Courtesy)
(L-R) Yosef, Elad and Chaya Salomon who were stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in the Halamish settlement on July 21, 2017. (Courtesy)

There have been concerns that Friday’s main weekly Muslim prayers — which typically draw thousands to the al-Aqsa mosque — will lead to more clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is revered as the site of the biblical temples. It is also the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina, and is known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif. Under an arrangement in place since Israel captured Jerusalem’s Old City in the Six Day War in 1967 and extended its sovereignty there, non-Muslims are allowed access to the site but are forbidden to pray there. Under this status quo, Israel is responsible for security at the site while the Jordanian trust — the Waqf — is in charge of administrative duties.

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