Israel says Jerusalem Muslim holy site will reopen on Sunday

Israel says Jerusalem Muslim holy site will reopen on Sunday
3 min read
16 July, 2017
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the ultra-sensitive al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City would reopen after being closed following clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.
The additional security measures are likely to be controversial [Anadolu]

Israel said it will reopen the ultra-sensitive al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday, after being sealed off when a clash broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the site would reopen but metal detectors would be installed at entrances to the site, while cameras would also be mounted in the area.

The additional security measures are likely to be controversial. It was unclear if they would be installed immediately.

The closure of the third holiest site in Islam has sparked anger among Palestinians, Muslims and Jordan - the custodian of al-Aqsa Mosque.

The site is also holy to Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

"It was decided to gradually open [al-Aqsa] to worshippers, visitors and tourists beginning tomorrow afternoon (Sunday)," Netanyahu's office said in a statement after he consulted with security chiefs.

"It was decided that the entrance gates to the Temple Mount would be equipped with metal detectors and that cameras would be installed outside the mount to cover events on the mount. Additional security steps will be taken later."

Three Palestinian assailants opened fire on Israeli police on Friday in the Old City, killing two of them before fleeing to the nearby Haram al-Sharif compound, where they were shot dead by police.

Israeli authorities said they had come from the flashpoint holy site, which includes the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, to commit the attack.

The White House "strongly" condemned Friday's attack, saying "there must be zero tolerance for terrorism".

After the attack, Israeli authorities took the highly unusual decision to close the holy site for Friday prayers.

Israeli authorities said the move was necessary to carry out security checks.

Wael Arabiyat, Jordan's Islamic affairs minister, warned that keeping al-Aqsa mosque closed is "dangerous" and "unprecedented", after Amman called for its immediate reopening.

Hundreds of Jordanians, responding to a Muslim Brotherhood call, demonstrated in Amman on Saturday, calling for the "liberation of al-Aqsa".

On Saturday, Israeli security forces locked down parts of Jerusalem's Old City, restricting access through Damascus Gate, the main entrance used by Palestinians.

Only residents with identification were allowed to pass.

The attack and aftermath was one of the most serious incidents in Jerusalem in recent years.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu spoke by phone on Friday as tensions rose.

Israeli authorities also detained Jerusalem's top Muslim cleric, Grand Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, as crowds gathered at the gates of the Old City after the attack, his son said.

Hussein was released later on Friday after being questioned over his call for Muslims to come to Jerusalem following the closure, another of his sons said.

'Worst aggression'

With al-Aqsa closed, crowds gathered at Old City gates and held Friday prayers there instead.

The Haram al-Sharif is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Palestinians fearing Israel may one day seek to assert further control over it.

It is located in east Jerusalem, illegallt occupied by Israel since 1967

Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions.

A wave of unrest that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of at least 281 Palestinians or Palestinian citizens of Israeli, 44 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP toll.

Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.

Others were shot dead in protests and clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

The violence had greatly subsided in recent months.