For the second day, Muslim worshipers refuse to enter Temple Mount over new Israeli security measures, July 17, 2017.
(photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)
Muslim worshipers continued their protest for the second day against newly installed metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount and avoided entering the compound. As part of the protests, the worshipers conducted prayers outside the gates on Monday and called on the police and the Israeli government to reverse the measures.
Police opened three gates for Muslim worshipers on Monday morning: the Gate of the Tribes, Bab al-Asbat; the Gate of the Council, Bab al-Majlis; and the Chain Gate, Bab al-Silsala. Police also eased restrictions on entering the gates of the Old City and opened adjacent streets for traffic.
The actions came a day after the Temple Mount was reopened to the public following Friday’s deadly attack in which two Israeli policemen were killed and their three armed assailants shot dead.
The decision to reopen the Temple Mount for prayer services followed the placement of metal detectors next to each gate to monitor and prevent the smuggling of firearms and other weapons into the compound, and plans for the installation of surveillance cameras to improve security. It was not disclosed, however, when and where the cameras will be placed.
The Wakf Muslim religious trust and other Muslim authorities released a statement on Monday calling on Muslims to keep the ban.
“If the metal detectors continue to be imposed on the gates to the blessed al-Aksa Mosque, we call upon our people to pray and worship in front of the gates of the al-Aksa Mosque and in the streets of Jerusalem and its alleys,” the statement read.
A couple of hundred worshipers came to the Lion’s Gate at approximately 12:45 p.m. to participate in the noon prayer. Police stood nearby as the worshipers prostrated themselves onto mats and pieces of cardboard.
Jerusalem Old City security arrangements beefed up following friday attack (credit: POLICE)
Following the prayers, the worshipers chanted against the new measure and called for the liberation of al-Aksa Mosque. They also helped enforcing the ban and called on people not to enter the compound.
After prayer ended, the police cleared the area to open the road that was blocked by the protesters.
In the evening, residents were removed after they blocked a street and threw stones and other objects at police who dealt with the incident.
Jerusalem District Police Commander, Maj.-Gen. Yoram Halevy said in an interview to Army Radio on Monday that despite the harsh response, Palestinians will get used to the metal detectors.
“We intend that anyone who wishes to enter the compound will be checked,” he said. “If that won’t be the situation we will shut all the gates, and we do not want to reach that,” he added.
“I assume that as time will pass by they will understand that it is not that bad,” Halevy added. “On Fridays, when I have to go shopping, I go through metal detectors in the Malha Mall. No one should be intimidated by that, it became a part of our lives.”
PLO executive committee member Mustafa Barghouti, who attended the prayer at the Lions’ Gate, responded to Halevy saying that despite restriction, Palestinians will find ways to enter the Temple Mount compound and bypass the new metal detectors.
“We have been under occupation for 50 years, and we will not ‘get used’ to the new injustice,” Barghouti told The Jerusalem Post. “People will try entering in every possible way without going through the electronic devices,” he added.
Barghouti pointed his finger at the Israeli government as the source to these tensions, saying it just waited to get an excuse to install the metal detectors at the gate.
“These measures were preplanned,” he said. “Nobody is convinced that due to the incident these measures were taken.”
“The measures are completely unacceptable,” Barghouti added.
“There is no place in the world that collective punishment is used against the whole population... We feel that their aim and nature is to change the situation at al-Aksa mosque.”
Barghouti was involved later in clashes near the Gate of the Tribes and was injured lightly.
Police on Monday also opened the Mughrabi Gate for Jewish visitors and tourists.
The first small group of Jewish visitors who entered the compound Monday morning said the Mourners’ Kaddish prayer for Border Police officers Haiel Stawi and Kamil Shnaan, who were both of the Druse faith and killed in the attack.
Jewish prayer on the mount is an especially irregular occurrence as Israel and the Wakf that oversees the site have banned such activity in accordance with the long-standing status quo at the complex, but due to the ban, the Wakf was not present at the spot.
Adam Rasgon and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.