Israel plans robust new security at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate after attacks
Thomas COEX (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that authorities are planning robust new security measures at the Damascus Gate entrance to Jerusalem's Old City following several deadly attacks at the site over the past two years.
"Murderers have gathered at this gate time after time, attacking time after time," Netanyahu said. "It has become a symbol of terror."
A key tourist site and one of the main entrances to Jerusalem's Old City, the massive white stone gate known as Damascus Gate has become a frequent backdrop for violence since a spate of attacks began in October 2015.
On Friday, 23-year-old Israeli border policewoman Hadas Malka was fatally stabbed at the site in a coordinated shooting and stabbing attack carried out by three Palestinian men from the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The attack took place as Muslims were marking the end of the third Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan, during which tens of thousands of Palestinians from east Jerusalem and the West Bank entered Jerusalem's Old City mainly through the Damascus Gate to attended prayers at the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site.
While Arab visitors have been subjected to searches and pat-downs since Friday's attack, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Thursday promised "unprecedented changes" to security at the Gate.
"I can tell you that we are going to conduct unprecedented changes on all of these security plans of the Damascus Gate: cameras, intelligence, police posts and changing the topography of the Gate," Erdan said at an annual regional security conference at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
"We will do everything to drastically minimize attacks at this particular location. The Damascus Gate is going to go through a revolution," he said, saying that 32 terror attacks have been perpetrated at the site over the past two and a half years.
Netanyahu said he met on Wednesday with Erdan, Police Chief Roni Alsheich, and Jerusalem Police Chief Yoram Halevy to discuss possible new security measures at Damascus Gate.
The measures will reportedly include new security cameras, including advanced cameras to photograph the licence plates of all cars passing through the area; construction of watchtowers for soldiers patrolling the area and an improved lighting system; and potentially excavating the site to flatten its topography in order to enable a faster response to attacks.
Israel's Channel 2 also reported that lanes would be established at the Gate so that everybody who enters will be required to pass through a security check.
Netanyahu said, however, that the new security measures would not infringe on people's freedom of movement.
"We are always concerned with freedom for all to come and pray. And of course also to respect holy sites," he said, vowing Israel would "protect the status quo."
Netanyahu on Friday revoked entry permits allocated to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to visit Israel in the wake of the deadly stabbing at Damascus Gate.
Permits for visiting the Temple Mount were not affected.
Unrest that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 272 Palestinians, 42 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.
(Staff with agencies)
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Sounds like excellent plan to keep away the would be coward attackers.