Israel said set to replace Temple Mount metal detectors with fenced access paths
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Israel said set to replace Temple Mount metal detectors with fenced access paths

Amid escalating violence, new security measures to be put in place at contested holy site, TV report says; not clear if fresh plan coordinated with Muslim authorities

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

Muslims pray in front of metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Muslims pray in front of metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel is set to remove the metal detector gates it deployed at the entrances to the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, and instead will on Sunday introduce different security measures, involving access for Muslim worshipers via narrow, fenced-off routes, an Israeli TV report said Saturday night.

The metal detector gates, installed after three Arab Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers outside the compound on July 14 using guns they had smuggled into the holy site, have prompted escalating Muslim protests. Worshipers have refused to go through them, and clashes with police in and around Jerusalem have been escalating daily, with three Palestinians killed on Friday. Later Friday, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death three Israelis at their Shabbat dinner table in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

The TV report said that overnight Saturday-Sunday, or early Sunday morning, Jerusalem city workers, directed by police, would set up fenced-off “sleeves” at the entrances to the Temple Mount. Muslim worshipers would be required to file through these channels. Anyone seen as suspicious, on cameras already installed at the entrances, would be checked with a hand-held metal detector.

It was also possible that Israel would bar worshipers from carrying bags onto the Mount, the TV report said.

Palestinian Muslim faithful pray next to Lions Gate, a main entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque in the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 20, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
Palestinian Muslim faithful pray next to Lions Gate, a main entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 20, 2017 (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

It gave no indication that the planned new procedures, decided earlier Saturday by Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi and the city’s Mayor Nir Barkat, had been coordinated with Muslim authorities.

If these measures were implemented as planned, the metal detector gates would “soon” be removed, the TV report said.

It noted that Israeli officials always said that the metal detector gates might not be a permanent measure.

The Temple Mount is revered by Jews as the home of the biblical temples, and by Muslims as the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. After Israel captured the Old City in 1967, it took control of security but allowed the Waqf Muslim trust to maintain religious authority there; Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there.

Muslim and Palestinian leaders have claimed the metal detector gates are a breach of that so-called status quo arrangement; Israel has said upgraded security was required in the wake of the July 14 attack.

The decision to install the metal detector gates in the first place a week ago was taken on the recommendation of the police, with no serious discussion with the Shin Bet security agency or military chiefs, the TV report also said. The police denied this report as incorrect.

Israeli cabinet ministers, meeting in a crisis session late on Thursday night, opted not to order the gates’ removal.

Israel’s Minister of Construction Yoav Galant, one of two ministers who voted against the decision to leave the metal detectors in place at the cabinet meeting on Thursday night, said Saturday night their introduction had been “a mistake” and that there were other ways to ensure security at the contested site.

Border police officers guard near metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, July 16, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Border Police officers guard near metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
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