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Israel Removes Metal Detectors from Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Palestinian Muslim worshippers pray next to Lions Gate, a main entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 19, 2017 (AFP)

Israeli authorities removed on Tuesday the metal detectors from the holy Haram al-Sharif mosque compound after their installation had triggered days of clashes with angry Palestinians.

Despite the removal of the offending equipment, Muslim officials said worshippers should continue a boycott for now.

The government said it would introduce subtler measures instead to secure the compound, which houses the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock, following a deadly attack on Israeli police nearby.

Israel’s security cabinet took the decision to remove the detectors early on Tuesday.

They decided “to change the inspection with metal detectors to a security inspection based on advanced technologies and other means,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.

Details of the advanced technologies the cabinet envisaged were not immediately clear.

A statement from the Waqf, the Islamic endowments organization which administers the compound, said there should be “no entry into Al-Aqsa mosque until after an assessment by a Waqf technical committee and the return of the situation to how it was before the 14th of this month.”

A work crew removed the metal detectors from one entrance to the compound in the early hours, and cameras installed on overhead bridges in recent days were also gone, an AFP correspondent reported.

Dozens of Israeli security personnel stood quietly outside the entrance, where Muslims have prayed for days in protest at the metal detectors.

A small group of women prayed outside. One of them, Widad Ali Nasser, said they would “not enter the Al-Aqsa mosque until the situation returns to how it was before … without surveillance cameras, without searches, without metal detectors.”

The women later held a small demonstration, chanting they would “sacrifice their soul and blood for Al-Aqsa.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged all Muslims to visit Jerusalem to protect the holy places.

“From here I make a call to all Muslims. Anyone who has the opportunity should visit Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa mosque,” Erdogan said in Ankara. “Come, let’s all protect Jerusalem.”

“They are attempting to take the mosque from Muslim hands on the pretext of fighting terrorism. There is no other explanation,” Erdogan said in a speech to ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers in parliament.

He said Israel’s legitimacy rested on the extent of the respect it showed to Palestinians and their rights.

Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the compound after an attack nearby that killed two policemen on July 14.

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

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

The decision to remove the metal detectors followed talks between Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who demanded they be taken away.

Jordan is the official custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and is one of only two Arab governments to have signed a peace treaty with Israel.

It also came after one of US President Donald Trump’s top aides, Jason Greenblatt, arrived in Israel for talks on the crisis and with UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov warning of the risks of escalation.