The Israel Police overnight Saturday-Sunday installed new surveillance measures near the Lions Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, the main access point for Muslim worshipers to the adjacent Temple Mount compound.
The Lions Gate area was the scene of a deadly terror attack on July 14 in which three Arab Israeli gunmen shot and killed two Israeli police officers, after smuggling firearms into the compound. The deadly attack prompted Israel to install metal detectors at the Gate of the Tribes access point to the Mount there to prevent further weapons smuggling, enraging Muslim worshipers and setting off increasingly violent mass protests.
In the clearing at the Gate of the Tribes entranceway, Israel put up additional temporary barricades overnight, beyond those already in place from last week, leading worshipers past an array of sophisticated surveillance cameras mounted on newly constructed scaffolding.
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.
Channel 2 News reported Saturday night that the new security measure could see the metal detectors removed “soon.”
Jerusalem city workers, directed by police, set up the new system at the gate.
The Waqf custodians on Sunday said in a statement it would not accept any new Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount.
“We confirm our total rejection of the electronic gates and all new occupation measures that will lead to a change in the historical and religious status quo in Jerusalem and its holy sites, especially the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the statement said.
Worshipers who arrived at the site on Sunday morning refused to enter the compound due to the cameras, JTA reported.
In an attempt to reach a compromise with the Waqf and the Palestinian leadership, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Israeli Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said in an interview with Al-Jazeera on Saturday that Israel was looking for ways to ensure the safety of those at the Temple Mount without the metal detectors.
“These days we are searching for other options and solutions that will bring safety and ensure another terror attack won’t be carried out,” he said.
Most worshipers have refused to go through the metal detectors, and clashes with police in and around Jerusalem have been intensifying daily, with five Palestinians killed on Friday and Saturday, including one who died when a Molotov cocktail he was about to throw caught fire prematurely.
On Friday night, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death three Israelis at their Shabbat dinner table in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.
Muslim worshipers who arrived at the Lions Gate for prayers Sunday morning vowed to continue their campaign to have all the recent security measures removed. Hundreds of Palestinians have been holding daily prayers sessions outside the gate in protest to the metal detectors.
There are two additional access points to the Temple Mount compound and metal detectors were also installed at those sites. It was not clear if the new camera system had also been set up at the Chain Gate and the Mughrabi Gate.
A police spokesperson said that the force was continuing to update security measures around the Temple Mount and in the Old City, but would not give any further specific details.
The high-level security cabinet was scheduled to meet on Sunday evening to review the continued use of the metal detectors. A previous meeting on Thursday night decided to leave the detectors in place, reportedly against the advice of the IDF and the Shin Bet security services.