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No decision after ministers discuss Temple Mount tensions overnight

Ministers reconvene Monday afternoon to continue debate on use of metal detectors at Jerusalem holy site

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right), Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (center) and Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (left) during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem in 2016, file photo (Amit Shabi/POOL/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right), Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (center) and Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (left) during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem in 2016, file photo (Amit Shabi/POOL/Flash90)

The security cabinet ended over six hours of deliberations on the Temple Mount crisis early Monday morning, without any major decisions being reached.

Ministers were set to reconvene at 2 p.m. to continue their discussions on the ongoing tensions and violence surrounding the Jerusalem holy site.

There was no official statement after the meeting.

The high-level forum had met to review ways to reduce tensions amid widespread unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank and following a brutal terror attack in which a Palestinian killed three family members at a Shabbat meal.

Ministers also discussed an incident inside the Israeli Embassy compound in Jordan, in which an Israeli guard was stabbed and shot and killed his attacker and another man, potentially ramping up already sky-high tensions between Jerusalem and Amman

The cabinet was originally convened to review the continued use of the metal detectors — put in place at the Temple Mount after the killing of two Israeli officers by Arab assailants who emerged armed from holy site. A previous meeting on Thursday night had led to a decision to allow the police to leave the detectors in place, reportedly against the advice of the IDF and the Shin Bet security services.

Since metal detectors were installed a week ago, five Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured in riots.

On Friday night, three members of the Salamon family celebrating the birth of a grandson were murdered in their home at the Halamish settlement by a Palestinian terrorist.

Friends and relatives mourn at the graves of Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Haya, 46, and son Elad, 36, after their funeral, attended by thousands, at the Modi'in Cemetery, on July 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ FLASH90)
Friends and relatives mourn at the graves of Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Haya, 46, and son Elad, 36, after their funeral, attended by thousands, at the Modi’in Cemetery, on July 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ FLASH90)

Palestinian political figures and Muslim religious leaders have raised tensions by alleging that Israel is trying to break a fragile status quo and expand its control at the contested Jerusalem holy site under the guise of security. Israel vehemently denies this.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, an outspoken supporter of the security measures, on Sunday raised the possibility that the metal detectors might be removed, provided an alternative is found.

He said security measures at the 37-acre esplanade, with eight entry gates for Muslim worshipers, were insufficient before the shooting attack.

“We need different security measures and means for checking (those entering) there,” he told Channel 2 news.

Erdan said it was “certainly possible that the metal detectors will be removed” if police recommend a different security program, but added that he was currently “not aware of such a program.”

Police overnight Saturday-Sunday installed new surveillance measures, including cameras, near the Lions Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, the main access point for Muslim worshipers to the adjacent Temple Mount compound.

Metal detectors set up by police leading into the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, July 21, 2017. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
Metal detectors set up by police leading into the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, July 21, 2017. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

According to Hebrew media reports, the camera can identify suspects carrying weapons without the use of metal detectors. Those spotted behaving suspiciously may then be checked by police with a hand-held metal detector.

As of Sunday afternoon, the metal detector gates at the heart of the controversy were still in place. However, police said, not all worshipers seeking to enter the compound are required to pass through them. Would-be entrants are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

However, Muslim leaders signaled earlier Sunday that they would reject any new proposal that leaves additional security measures in place. And few worshipers Sunday were passing through the metal detectors into the compound.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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