Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday he will maintain a freeze on security coordination with Israel, despite the removal of metal detectors and security cameras from the entrances to the Temple Mount.
“Unless all measures go back to what they were before July 14, there will not be any changes,” Abbas said, referring to the date on which two Israeli police officers were shot dead just outside the compound. The terrorists, three Israeli Arabs, used guns that had been smuggled into the holy site by an accomplice.
“All the new Israeli measures on the ground from that date to the present are supposed to disappear,” he said. “Then things will return to normal in Jerusalem and we will continue our work after that in relation to bilateral relations between us and them.”
Following the shooting, 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.
Israel removed the metal detectors, along with cameras it installed in the area, early on Tuesday, but some new railings and barriers remain.
The installation of the detectors led to widespread anger among Muslims, who boycotted praying at the site in protest, and sparked a series of violent clashes with Israeli security forces, during which five Palestinians were killed.
The tensions surrounding the site were also cited by assailants in two recent terror attacks, including last week when a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of the Salomon family in the West Bank settlement of Halamish as they celebrated Shabbat.
Last week, Abbas announced that the PA would halt security coordination with Israel in protest of the metal detectors, describing the decision as difficult and warning that it would be Israelis who would suffer from the measure.
Abbas indicated that should Israel want security coordination to resume, it would have to reverse the recent security measures taken at the Temple Mount and halt all military incursions into Palestinian cities.
The security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians, in place for years despite near-frozen diplomatic ties, is seen as critical for both Israel and Abbas’s Fatah faction to keep a lid on violence in the West Bank, particularly from the Hamas terror group.
In January 2016, head of the PA’s security forces Majed Faraj said his forces, working with Israeli security services, managed to foil hundreds of attacks against Israelis in less than a year.
Despite the removal of the metal detectors and security cameras Tuesday, Muslim leaders advised worshipers to continue to stay away from the Temple Mount.
The Waqf Islamic trust, which administers the site, said a decision to continue the boycott was pending a review of the new Israeli security arrangements there.
Overnight Tuesday, Israel’s security cabinet said 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 accepted in place of the metal detectors.
Waqf officials pointed to the increased police presence as an example of security measures they demanded be removed along with the metal detectors.