US 'very concerned' by Temple Mount tensions

After a shooting incident last week at the holy site resulted in the deaths of two Israeli police officers, Israel's government implemented metal detectors at its entrances.

July 20, 2017 04:58
2 minute read.
Temple Mount conflict

An Israeli police officer checks the identity of a Palestinian man next to newly installed metal detectors at an entrance to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City July 16, 2017.. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration is "very concerned" at the sight of growing tensions on the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, where security has been tightened since a terrorist attack last week.

"The United States is very concerned about tensions surrounding the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif, a site holy to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and calls upon the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to make a good faith effort to reduce tensions and to find a solution that assures public safety and the security of the site and maintains the status quo," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement on Wednesday night. "The United States will continue to closely monitor the developments."

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After a terror attack last week at the holy site resulted in the deaths of two Israeli police officers, Israel's government implemented metal detectors at its entrances— a change to the status quo in the eyes of worshipers, who have taken to ever-growing protests in recent days.

On Wednesday, the Wakf Islamic trust instructed preachers and imams in Jerusalem not to deliver sermons in the city’s mosques on Friday and instead attend prayers adjacent to the Temple Mount

“They will not deliver sermons in the mosques, but rather go to the blessed al-Aksa Mosque,” Wakf director Azzam al-Khatib said at a press conference.

The Wakf is the branch of the Jordanian government that administers the Temple Mount and other Islamic sites in Jerusalem.

The Wakf’s decision to order preachers and imams not to deliver sermons in Jerusalem’s mosques on Friday comes after Israel installed metal detectors on Sunday in front of the entrances to the Temple Mount.

While the Wakf has rejected the metal detectors and called on Muslim worshipers not to go through them in order to enter the Temple Mount, the police have said the detectors are meant to ensure security and were put in place after weapons were found at the site.

The police discovered a handful of weapons on the Temple Mount last weekend after closing the site for two days following a shooting attack near one of its entrances.
Riots near the Temple Mount (Courtesy)

Muslim worshipers have heeded the Wakf’s calls not to enter the Temple Mount through the metal detectors and prayed for the fourth consecutive day on Wednesday adjacent to the site in protest.

“The metal detectors are a part of Israel’s plan to slowly take over al-Aksa Mosque,” one worshiper, Osama Aqabi, who hails from the Negev, told the Post.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contests that assertion and has said his government has no intention to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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