Quantcast

Despite protests, Netanyahu adamant that new security on Temple Mount will stay

Men pray at the entrance to the Temple Mount (Noble Sanctuary) in Jerusalem, July 16 2017.
Eylon Aslan-Levy
Former commander of Israel police in West Bank says Shin Bet errors led to Friday's attack which killed two

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the electronic security checkpoints installed at the entrances to Jerusalem's Temple Mount holy compound will stay, despite protests from Muslim worshippers and officials who protested that the checks are unacceptable Israeli interference.

The Temple Mount was reopened under heavy security on Sunday, two days after two police officers were killed in a rare terror attack at the flashpoint site, also known as the Haram Al Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Netanyahu told reporters accompanying him on a visit to France that the metal detectors and cameras will remain in place, and denied that it constituted a change to the fragile 'status quo' that governs the Israeli and Muslim control of the holy complex, Channel Two reported.

"It is not right to change [the status quo], it could cause unexpected results and damage relations with some Arab states," he was quoted as saying.

Night prayers on Sunday were carried out by a restive crowd and ended in scuffles, an i24NEWS reporter on the scene said.

While a large group of men prayed at the entrance to the Mount after refusing to go through the checkpoints, an Israeli police officer stood a foot away from the prayer leader and filmed him.

Eylon Aslan-Levy

As the prayers ended, the prayer leader lunged toward the police officer, who lunged back, according to the eyewitness, amid shouts and mayhem. Police dispersed the crowd rapidly and ordered media to leave the scene.

Police announced on Sunday afternoon that members of the Waqf, the Jordanian administrative body that runs the complex, were originally refusing to enter the site through the newly-installed metal detectors at the entrance, but that some later entered without passing through the machines.

Eyewitnesses said that many worshippers were refusing to walk through the machines, claiming they were an unacceptable violation of the status quo that governs the Israeli and Muslim control of the holy complex, which contains the Al Aqsa mosque and the iconic Dome of the Rock.

Some people who approached the gates were yelled out at by a restive crowd and then retreated, the i24NEWS reporter said. While earlier in the day it was reported that hundreds entered the site after passing the security checks, during the early evening prayers only a trickle went through versus hundreds standing outside, chanting.

Netanyahu and top security officials on Saturday announced the new security infrastructure, amid questions about how three Arab-Israelis managed to smuggle improvised rifles, a handgun and knives onto the plaza on Friday morning.

Jordana Miller/i24NEWS

Police announced on Sunday afternoon that members of the Waqf, the Jordanian administrative body that runs the complex, were originally refusing to enter the site through the newly-installed metal detectors at the entrance, but that some later entered without passing through the machines.

However, the Walla news site reports that the efficacy of the new measures has been doubted by some. The police themselves are often the target of attacks, meaning they would be in a vulnerable position at inspection points, and secondly the sheer number of worshipers, up to 200,000 on Muslim holidays, could make effective security inspections almost impossible.

The fatal shooting on Friday at the holy compound of Israeli police officers Sergeant Major General Haiel Stawi, 30, and Lieutenant-Colonel Kamil Shanan, 22, prompted Israel to implement an exceedingly rare blanket closure of the site to visitors and worshipers and the cancellation of Friday prayers for the first time in decades.

The Jordan-based Waqf, an Islamic trust that governs the Temple Mount compound, accused Israel of taking control over the ultra-sensitive holy site after a shooting attack against Israeli police. according to local media.

The Waqf also claimed that security forces ransacked many of the religious and administrative buildings on the Mount in searches, according to Hebrew daily Haaretz, as Hamas also escalated their rhetoric in the aftermath of the closure of the site, imposed by Israel as a response to Friday's shooting.

Israel Police

Israel said the measure was a necessary security procedure as it swept the area for other weapons and investigated whether the three Arab-Israeli gunmen received help from inside the compound.

Adnan Al-Husseini, the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, said that he would hold the Israeli government responsible for any damage to the compound or artifacts there, the Arab News reported earlier on Sunday.

“There are thousands of manuscripts, rare artifacts and other precious items” in the mosque and throughout the compound. “We hold Israel responsible for their safe keeping,” he reportedly told local journalists.

The Temple Mount ​is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.

The site has become the site of violent clashes in the past. Palestinians believe that Israel intends to change the status-quo at the site while many Israelis voice frustration over what they see as restrictions on Jewish prayer at the complex.

Israel has vowed repeatedly to maintain the status quo, which allows Muslim prayer there but forbids Jewish prayer and religious rituals.

Ahmad GHARABLI (AFP/Archives)

Blame

The reopening of the site two days after the fatal attack, comes as a senior former police officer said that the force was being unfairly blamed for the attack.

Haaretz newspaper reports that former West Bank district commander Major General (Ret.) Shlomi Michael said that the Israeli cabinet had already previously approved the installation of electronic gates at the site, but said that Gilad Erdan, minister for internal security, was responsible for the plan's lack of implementation.

Michael also told the newspaper that the blame for the intelligence failures which led to three Israeli-Arabs from the northern town of Umm-al-Fahm to be able to carry out the attack, must be laid at the feet of Israel's internal security agency, the Shin Bet.

Many police officials reportedly believe that the Shin Bet is reluctant to share intelligence with other organizations within the country's security apparatus, and that the closeness of Police Commissioner Roni Alshich to the Shin Bet means that the police cannot publicly criticize.

Read more: Rare Temple Mount closure in wake of attack fans flames over status-quo

Read more: King Abdullah calls Netanyahu, demands reopening of Temple Mount: report

Comments

(0)
8Previous articlePalestinian gunman killed by Israeli security forces during West Bank raid
8Next articleIsraeli soldier convicted for Hebron shooting, released to house arrest