ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday welcomed said Israel’s removal of metal detectors from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount was “not enough,” and accused the Jewish state of attempting to damage Jerusalem’s “Islamic character.”
Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), after an attack on July 14 by three Israeli Arabs who emerged from site with weapons they had smuggled in, and shot two policemen to death.
But after protests and intensive international diplomacy to prevent further unrest, the government removed the detectors from the site, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
“Israel took the right step to remove the metal detectors to help lower tension,” Erdogan said.
“But is it enough according to our wishes? No, it is not,” he said at a meeting on further education in the Islamic world in Ankara.
Erdogan said Turkey “cannot tolerate” constraints placed on Muslims visiting the site during Friday prayers.
“The Israeli government want to destroy the Islamic character of Jerusalem with a new practice every day,” he said.
Palestinians viewed the new security measures as Israel asserting further control over the site, which is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has denied changing the status quo at the site.
Clashes broke out during protests over the metal detectors, leaving five Palestinians dead.
On Friday, a West Bank teenage terrorist affiliated with Hamas stabbed to death three members of a family having Shabbat dinner in their home in the settlement of Halamish, having written a Facebook post protesting the “defiling” of Al-Aqsa by Jews.
On Tuesday Erdogan called on Muslims to come to Israel to “protect” the Al-Aqsa Mosque, setting off a spat between Jerusalem and Ankara.
There were tit-for-tat statements from both sides after Erdogan accused Israel of “attempting to take the (Al-Aqsa) mosque from Muslim hands”.
The Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement that his comments were “mind-blowing, false and distorted.”
Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu on Wednesday condemned Israel’s “arrogant” remarks.
In recent days, several demonstrations against Israel’s actions on the Temple Mount were held outside an Istanbul synagogue.
On Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party called on its supporters, for the second week in a row, to take to the streets in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday in opposition to the security measures at the holy site.
The Hamas terrorist groups also called for a fresh “day of rage” throughout the West Bank on Friday to protest continued Israeli security measures at the site.