Israel to stop use of metal detectors at sensitive holy site: official

Israeli security forces remove metal detectors installed at an entrance to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City on July 25, 2017.
Israeli security forces remove metal detectors installed at an entrance to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City on July 25, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli ministers have decided to stop the use of metal detectors at a highly sensitive Jerusalem holy site, a statement said early Tuesday (July 25), after the new security measures set off deadly unrest.

The security Cabinet accepted "the recommendation of all the security bodies to change the inspection with metal detectors to a security inspection based on advanced technologies and other means", a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

As word spread of the decision, a few hundred Palestinians gathered to celebrate near an entrance to the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

One person set off a firework, prompting Israeli police to raid and disperse them using sound grenades.

Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the Jerusalem site, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, after an attack on July 14 that killed two policemen.

Palestinians view the new security measures as Israel asserting further control over the site. They have refused to enter the compound in protest and have prayed in the streets outside instead.

 

Israeli authorities said the metal detectors were needed because the July 14 attackers smuggled guns into the site and emerged from it to shoot the officers.

Clashes have broken out during protests over the measures, leaving five Palestinians dead.

Three Israelis were also killed when a Palestinian sneaked into a house in a West Bank settlement and stabbed them.

The decision to remove the metal detectors follows talks between Mr Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah II.

Jordan is the official custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

There was speculation that a separate diplomatic standoff may have helped push negotiations to remove the metal detectors along.  On Sunday night in Amman, an Israeli embassy security guard shot dead a Jordanian who attacked him with a screwdriver, according to Israeli officials.  A second Jordanian was also killed, apparently by accident.  

Jordan insisted on questioning the security  guard, while Israel said he had diplomatic immunity.  The guard arrived back in Israel late Monday along with other embassy staff, apparently after an agreement was brokered.  

During discussions with Mr Netanyahu, King Abdullah had demanded that Israel remove the metal detectors.

The holy site in Jerusalem's Old City has served as a rallying cry for Palestinians.

 In 2000, then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the compound helped ignite the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which lasted more than four years.  It is in east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.  Considered the third holiest site in Islam, it is the most sacred for Jews.