Israel removed metal detectors from entrances to the Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday in favor of CCTV cameras, hoping to calm days of bloodshed, but Palestinians said the modified security measures were still unacceptable.
Israel installed the detectors at entry points to Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem after two police guards were fatally shot on July 14, setting off the bloodiest clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in years.
The spike in tensions and the deaths of three Israelis and four Palestinians in violence on Friday and Saturday raised international alarm and prompted a session of the United Nations Security Council to consider ways of defusing the crisis.
“All parties should work to reduce these tensions and we offer whatever assistance we can in helping to do this,” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council in New York. “At the holy sites, it’s vital that both access and security be ensured.” Washington has already held talks with Israel and Jordan to help resolve the crisis.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the senior Muslim cleric who oversees Al-Aqsa compound both dismissed the new Israeli measures and demanded all of them be removed.
“All new Israeli measures put in place since (July 14) must be removed so things can go back to normal in Jerusalem and we can resume our work regarding bilateral relations,” Abbas said at the beginning of a meeting with the Palestinian leadership.
The Waqf, the religious body that runs the Islamic sites in the Al-Aqsa compound, said worshippers would continue to stay away from the elevated, marble-and-stone plaza – Islam’s third holiest site – and pray in the streets outside.
Jews revere the compound as the place where two ancient temples once stood.
A Waqf spokesman said it was awaiting a decision of a technical committee but was demanding the situation revert to the way it was before the metal detectors were installed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet of senior ministers voted to remove the metal detector gates early on Tuesday after a meeting lasting several hours.