Waqf presents police with list of demands to end protests
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Waqf presents police with list of demands to end protests

Islamic authority wants access to Temple Mount returned to situation before July 14 attack -- more gates open, no railings, no cameras

File: Waqf officials and others prepare to pray outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, rather than enter the compound via metal detectors set up by Israel following a terror attack, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Waqf officials and others prepare to pray outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, rather than enter the compound via metal detectors set up by Israel following a terror attack, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Islamic authority that administers the Temple Mount on Wednesday met with Israeli police representatives and renewed demands to remove all additional security measures placed by Israel at the holy site in the wake of a deadly July 14 attack.

According to Palestinian sources, a meeting was held between a representative of the Waqf, which administers the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound atop the Temple Mount, and Jerusalem Police chief Deputy Commissioner Yoram Halevi.

Sources said it was the second meeting between the two.

The Waqf representative, an attorney charged with carrying out talks with Israeli officials, demanded that conditions at the site “return to what they were before” the July 14 terror attack in which three Israeli Arabs shot dead two Israel police officers with weapons they had smuggled into the site.

Israel early on Monday removed metal detector gates it had installed outside the Temple Mount compound, but the Waqf has continued to urge Muslim worshipers to pray outside the site. The list of demands it presented Wednesday includes 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 metal railings placed at the entrances.

Police officers guard at an entrance to the Temple Mount, as a group of Muslims walk by metal railings installed at the site after a deadly attack on July 25, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Police officers guard at an entrance to the Temple Mount, as a group of Muslims walk by metal railings installed at the site after a deadly attack on July 25, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In response, the Israel Police said it maintains regular contact with the Waqf over the situation at the Temple Mount, but denied any negotiations were taking place.

With the amended security arrangements ordered by Israel’s cabinet late Monday now completed, the Mount is open to Muslim worshipers, and a few dozen worshipers are visiting the site on a private basis, police said Wednesday.

A police spokesperson added that when the Waqf agrees to renew regular prayer at the site, it will enjoy the full cooperation of the authorities.

Muslim worshippers pray at an entrance to the Temple Mount at the Lion's Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, July 25, 2017. Muslim worshippers still refused to pray on the Temple Mount following the government's decision remove the metal detectors and instead place more security cameras on the compound. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Muslim worshippers pray at an entrance to the Temple Mount at the Lions Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 25, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In practice, however, Muslim worshipers have largely stayed away from the compound. Instead, they have held mass prayer protests outside the shrine, many of which devolved into clashes with Israeli security forces.

Immediately following the July 14 attack, Israel took the rare step of closing the Temple Mount to Muslim worshipers on a Friday — the holiest day of the week in Islam — in order to search for weapons, before reopening it two days later after installing metal detectors at the entrances to the compound. Previously detectors had only been placed at the Mughrabi Gate, the entrance for non-Muslim visitors.

The detectors were removed early Tuesday morning amid intense pressure from the Arab and Muslim world, although metal railings and scaffolding placed by the police in recent days are still in the area where the metal detectors once stood.

Israel’s security cabinet said Monday night it would replace the metal detectors with “advanced technologies,” referring reportedly to cameras that can detect hidden objects, but said the process could take up to six months.

A Waqf official told The Times of Israel that it was continuing the boycott of the Temple Mount until all security measures added after the attack are removed.

The official noted that “the new high-tech cameras” would not be acceptable in place of the metal detectors.

Security measures, including cameras, which were installed outside the Lion's Gate of the Old City, a main access point to the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, July 24, 2017. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Security measures, including cameras, which were installed outside the Lion’s Gate of the Old City, a main access point to the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, July 24, 2017. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Waqf officials also pointed to the increased police presence as an example of security measures they demanded be rolled back along with the metal detectors.

Earlier on Wednesday, both Hamas and Fatah called on Palestinians to step up their protests against Israel.

At a Gaza military parade, Hamas called for a “day of rage” Friday in the West Bank, urging Palestinians to “respond to the ongoing events in order to deter Israel from continuing its violations against our people and holy places,” according to Channel 2.

It was the second week in a row the Palestinian terrorist group made such a call.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party also called on its supporters, also 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.

Fatah’s youth movement later issued a statement vowing to expand the “circle of confrontation with the occupation forces, isolation of settlements and the opening of all fronts, in villages, cities and refugee camps.”

The statement from the “Shabiba” movement said the planned actions would target all settlements and roads leading to them.

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