US ‘applauds’ Israel for nixing Temple Mount metal detectors
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US ‘applauds’ Israel for nixing Temple Mount metal detectors

White House press secretary praises Jerusalem's efforts to 'maintain security while reducing tensions in the region'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Border policeman stand guard outside the Lions Gate of the Old City in Jerusalem, July 25, 2017. (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)
Border policeman stand guard outside the Lions Gate of the Old City in Jerusalem, July 25, 2017. (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration praised Israel Tuesday night for removing metal detectors from the entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, a security measure that has sparked violent protests and a diplomatic crisis with Jordan.

“The United States applauds the efforts of Israel to maintain security while reducing tensions in the region,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Israel’s security cabinet decided Tuesday that the metal detectors — set up in the wake of a terror attack at the holy site in which two Israeli police officers were killed — would be removed.

Israel indicated it will eventually use high-resolution cameras capable of detecting hidden objects as the alternative.

The White House hailed the decision “despite the demonstrated need to enhance security at the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif in the wake of the murder of two Israeli police officers at the site on July 14.”

The metal detectors were set up following the July 14 attack in which three Arab Israeli assailants killed two Israeli Druze police officers just outside the Temple Mount, using guns that had been smuggled into the site.

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 11, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)
Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 11, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Israel shut the site that day and July 15, and reopened it with new security arrangements in place. The implementation of the measures set off daily unrest and clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli police in and around East Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

The violence came to a head Friday after midday prayers, as three Palestinian protesters were killed in clashes with security forces. Two more died in clashes on Saturday.

Late on Friday, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death three members of the Salomon family at their Shabbat table in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, as others, including children, rushed to hide. He was shot and wounded by an off-duty soldier who lives nearby.

Yosef Salomon, 70, and his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, seen at a recent family celebration. They were stabbed to death on July 21, 2017 in a terrorist attack at Halamish (courtesy)
Yosef Salomon, 70, and his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, seen at a recent family celebration. They were stabbed to death on July 21, 2017 in a terrorist attack at Halamish (courtesy)

After two days of silence, US President Donald Trump dispatched one of his top envoys to the region to try and reduce tensions.

Special envoy Jason Greenblatt arrived in Israel Monday afternoon, had meetings with US Ambassador to the United States David Friedman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and then left for Amman for more meetings.

Despite the overnight removal of the metal detectors and security cameras from entrances to the Temple Mount, worshipers continued their protests Tuesday, saying they would not end a boycott of the site until additional security measures put in place after the shooting attack were rolled back.

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