Netanyahu faces pressure over holy site after 8 die in violence

Israel has sent extra troops into the occupied West Bank after at least seven Israelis and Palestinians were killed, the biggest surge in bloodshed between the two sides in years.
Security measures installed by the Israeli authorities included metal detectors and cameras outside Lions' Gate, a major entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.
Security measures installed by the Israeli authorities included metal detectors and cameras outside Lions' Gate, a major entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Palestinians see Israel's use of metal detectors at mosque compound as exerting control

JERUSALEM • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced mounting pressure yesterday over new security measures at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site after a weekend of violence left eight people dead, with fears more unrest could follow.

Israeli officials signalled that they may be open to changing the measures at the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, after the installation of metal detectors at entrances following an attack that killed two policemen stoked Palestinian anger.

The metal detectors remained in place yesterday morning, though cameras had also been mounted near at least one entrance to the compound in Jerusalem's Old City - a possible indication of an alternative to the detectors.

Mr Netanyahu was also holding a Cabinet meeting and was due to meet his security Cabinet.

"Since the start of the events, I have held a series of assessments with security elements, including those in the field," he said at the start of the meeting.

"We are receiving from them an up-to-date picture of the situation, as well as recommendations for action, and we will decide accordingly."


Israeli Major-General Yoav Mordechai - head of Cogat, the defence ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories - signalled that changes to the policy were possible.

"We are examining other options and alternatives that will ensure security," Maj-Gen Mordechai said in an interview with Al-Jazeera.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said he would continue to support the metal detectors remaining in place unless police provide a satisfactory alternative.

The crisis has resonated internationally. The United Nations Security Council will hold closed-door talks today about the spiralling violence after Egypt, France and Sweden sought a meeting to "urgently discuss how calls for de-escalation in Jerusalem can be supported".

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit accused Israel of "playing with fire" with the new measures.

Tensions have risen throughout the past week over the metal detectors at the compound, which includes the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, following the July 14 attack that killed two policemen. Palestinians reject the use of metal detectors because they see the move as Israel asserting further control over the site. They have refused to enter the compound in protest.

The Israeli authorities say the July 14 attackers smuggled guns into the holy site and emerged from it to shoot the policemen.

Friday's main weekly Muslim prayers - which typically draw thousands to Al-Aqsa - brought the situation to a boil.

In anticipation of protests, Israel barred men under 50 from entering the Old City for prayers.

Clashes broke out between Israeli security forces and Palestinians around the Old City, in other parts of annexed East Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank, leaving three Palestinians dead.

Last Friday evening, a Palestinian broke into a home in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank during a Sabbath dinner and stabbed four Israelis, killing three of them.

The Israeli army said the 19-year-old Palestinian had spoken in a Facebook post of the Jerusalem holy site and of dying as a martyr.

Clashes also flared in East Jerusalem and other Palestinian villages in the West Bank near Jerusalem last Saturday, police said. Two Palestinians died during the clashes.

Israeli security forces said yesterday that they had arrested 25 men active in the militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'Netanyahu faces pressure over holy site after 8 die in violence'. Print Edition | Subscribe