Israel has removed newly installed metal detectors from the entrance of the Temple Mount compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, following over a week of violence in Israel and the West Bank.
The violence erupted after Israel introduced new security measures at the Temple Mount holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem following the killing of two Israeli police officers in the area on the 14th July by Palestinian terrorists.
The decision was announced late on Monday night after a series of security cabinet meetings in which it was decided that they should be replaced with less conspicuous, extremely advanced security cameras.
Israel has now removed the metal detectors but has left in place metal railings and scaffolding.
Palestinian leaders however have branded the modified security arrangements as still unacceptable, and both Hamas and Fatah have called for mass protests on Friday. The Hamas terror group has called on its followers in the West Bank to participate in “marches of rage” on Friday, for the second week running.
A statement from the cabinet said that 100 million shekels (about $28 million) has been allocated for the new equipment and for additional police officers at the site until the new measures are put in place to protect worshippers and visitors to the site.
It is hoped that the removal of the metal detectors will bring an end to the recent uproar and violent confrontations over the holy site, which have resulted in the deaths of three Israelis and five Palestinians.
Tensions in the West Bank increased over the weekend following the decision by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to “freeze” ties with Israel “on all levels” until the new security measures on the Temple Mount were withdrawn. The PA’s ruling Fatah party called on Saturday for a continued struggle “to take control of the Al-Aqsa mosque”. In a statement sent to its supporters, President Abbas’s party said the “campaign for Jerusalem has effectively begun, and will not stop until a Palestinian victory and the release of the holy sites from Israeli occupation”.
The Temple Mount site has been a flashpoint of violence for decades. In September 2015, violence escalated after PA President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated inflammatory false allegations that Israel was planning to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Muslim holy sites, which led to an ongoing wave of violence that has resulted in the deaths of 51 Israelis and four foreign nationals.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, where the two destroyed Jewish Temples were located, and the complex contains the Dome of the Rock as well as the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam.
Israel actively upholds the existing status quo, according to which non-Muslims can visit the Temple Mount at fixed times, but are not permitted to conduct any prayers.