Saturday, October 31, 2020

Al-Aqsa compound reopened but Palestinians reject new security measures

By The Palestine Monitor - July 16, 2017
Section: [Main News]

After an attack by three Palestinian citizens of Israel last week near the Al-Aqsa compound left two Israeli policemen, as well as the three attackers, dead, the Israeli authorities closed the site - the 3rd holiest place for Muslims around the world and the holiest for Jews. It was the first time in decades that Israel decided to bar Palestinians from the sensitive site. 

Palestinians broadly protested against this measure that they see as limiting their religious freedom, and an attempt by Israel to use Palestinian violence to assert its control over the holy site, which is also considered a symbol of Palestinian presence in Jerusalem. 

On Friday, Jordan's Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani said Israel should open the mosque to the worshipers and not take any measures that will change the status quo in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque. Jordan, which condemned the violence, also called for the opening of an investigation into the incident.

Egypt also expressed grave concern. Spokesman for Egyptian Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Abu Zaid, warned in a press statement of any consequences that may undermine the international and regional efforts to revive the stalled Palestinian-Israel peace process. He also urged all parties to show restraint to avoid descending into a cycle of violence as well as taking measures that might affect the freedom to worship in the al-Aqsa Mosque.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the attack could ignite more violence and said all sides must avoid escalation. "The sanctity of religious sites should be respected as places for reflection, not violence," Guterres added.

A number of countries reacted because of fears Israel's decision would change the vulnerable status quo in Jerusalem.

Eventually, on Sunday, the place was gradually reopened. However, Israel imposed new security measures, including metal detectors, at the entrance gates, as well as additional security cameras.

Palestinian governor of Jerusalem and of the Jerusalem Governorate, Waqf supervisor and also a member of the Palestinian National Authority Higher Council of Tourism, Adnan Husseini, said that arrangements needed to return to how they were before a deadly attack.

He acknowledged that there had been violence but he added that it "shouldn't be an excuse for making changes" and that the Palestinians will not accept Israeli security measures for entrance to the site.

The Islamic Waqf that supervises the Muslim sites in Jerusalem rejected the new measures imposed by Israeli authorities mentioning that they had erected electronic gates at the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and installed surveillance cameras and “spy devices” in the Qibli mosque of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

"Freedom of worship and freedom of religion are guaranteed by international agreements," said Hanna Issa, secretary-general of the Christian Islamic Committee for the Protection of Holy Sites in Jerusalem, adding that Israel's recent measures against the Al-Aqsa Mosque through the installation of electronic gates and surveillance cameras have explicitly violated the rules of international law.

Issa added: "Israel has virtually Judaized nearly 95% of occupied Jerusalem, Jerusalem has about one million people, Jews make up about 72% and Palestinians 28%." These often-cited numbers, however, have never been confirmed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the metal detectors will remain.
Photos by Jacob Burns


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