Israel dismantles metal detectors from key Jerusalem shrine

25.07.2017

Israel on Tuesday dismantled metal detectors it installed a week earlier at a contested Jerusalem shrine, hoping to defuse a crisis with the Muslim world, including security ally Jordan, the Muslim custodian of the holy site.

The removal of the devices followed the resolution of a 24-hour diplomatic standoff with Jordan over a deadly shooting at the Israeli Embassy in the kingdom, suggesting a broader deal had been struck.

However, there were signs on Tuesday that the crisis over the shrine, revered by Muslims and Jews, was not over yet.

Israel announced it would replace the metal detectors with new security measures. This would include "advanced technologies", reportedly sophisticated cameras, and additional police deployments.

Muslim leaders had demanded that security arrangements go back to what they were before the metal detectors were erected.

Ikrema Sabri, a senior Muslim cleric, said Tuesday that Muslims should stay away from the shrine, pending a review of the new Israeli measures. The review could be completed by the end of the day.

"Our position is that for now, nobody should enter," he said.

The 37-acre (15-hectare) esplanade in Jerusalem's Old City is the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest of Judaism, once home to biblical Temples. It sits on the fault line of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and triggered several major confrontations in the past.

Israel had erected metal detectors at the gates to the Muslim-administered site last week, after Arab gunmen killed two Israeli police guards there.

The move incensed the Muslim world, amid allegations that Israel was trying to expand control over the site under the guise of security – a claim Israel denies.

The installation of the metal detectors set off widespread protests and deadly Israeli–Palestinian violence over the past week.

Large crowds of Muslim worshippers prayed outside the shrine in protest every day, refusing to pass through the metal detectors.

Israel has denied it has a hidden agenda, portraying the metal detectors as a needed means to prevent attacks.

However, the Israeli government has come under growing diplomatic pressure in recent days to reconsider the decision. It also faced growing domestic criticism that it had acted hastily, without weighing the repercussions of installing new devices at the volatile site.

The diplomatic crisis with Jordan over the embassy shooting lent more urgency to finding a solution. (AP)

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