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Israel Installs Security Cameras at Jerusalem Shrine

24 Jul 2017 1:35 am
By Rory Jones 

Israel is doubling down in its standoff with Palestinian and Muslim religious authorities over the use of metal detectors at one of Jerusalem's holiest shrines, installing additional cameras at the site after a weekend of bloodshed over the issue.

Israeli police on Sunday added the surveillance equipment to the existing metal detectors at the main entrance to boost security at the ancient shrine compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and Jews as the Temple Mount, an Israeli official said.

Israel first installed the detectors last week after Arab gunmen shot and killed two Israeli policemen at the site, located in Jerusalem's Old City. That attack led Israeli authorities to close the Temple Mount to all Muslim men under the age of 50 during the following week's Friday prayers. The tension over the site then sparked violence across the city.

"The checkpoints will stay," Tzachi Hanegbi, a minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, told Army Radio. "The government of Israel isn't willing to put up with acts of murder."

Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. envoy leading efforts to reopen peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, left for Israel Sunday night "to support efforts to reduce tensions in the region," a senior administration official said.

Waqf, the Islamic religious authority that administers the Temple Mount, has called on Muslims not to visit the site until the cameras are removed and accuses Israel of trying to take control of the area. Only Muslims are allowed to pray on the compound, but Jewish groups are lobbying for that right.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that the Palestinian Authority will cut all ties with Israel until the issue is resolved. A Palestinian official on Sunday said the suspension included security cooperation, but offered no details on how ties would be severed.

Attempts by the Palestinian Authority to cut ties with Israel would only damage that body's own security and economic interests, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned on Sunday.

In governing parts of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is deeply intertwined with Israel, which transfers a large portion of the Authority's monthly revenue in taxes and other duties.

Security services from both sides work closely together and thousands of Palestinians cross to Israel from the West Bank each day for work, making a permanent break in ties unrealistic.

The latest confrontation at the Temple Mount strikes at the heart of a longstanding dispute over who holds ultimate sovereignty over it.

Israel captured the area from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, but allowed Waqf, a Jordanian religious authority, to continue to administer the site. Palestinians, meanwhile, want the compound as part of the capital of a future independent state.

"We oppose all means Israel implements at the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque, including metal detectors," Waqf said on Sunday, referring to the mosque that stands atop the Temple Mount. It asked Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and other Arab nations to lobby Israel to back down from its additional security measures.

The quartet of diplomatic representatives on Israeli-Palestinian peace, including the United Nations, European Union, U.S. and Russia, also called on all sides to refrain from provocative actions and to de-escalate tensions.

Israeli security forces on Friday clashed with thousands of Palestinians protesting the metal detectors, arguing that they don't provide additional security and undermine the shrine's holiness. Three Palestinians were killed, Palestinian authorities said.

The metal detectors are a symbol of wider Palestinian grievances over a lack of movement toward statehood, and fears Israel is attempting to change longstanding agreements over accessibility to the Temple Mount, said Mitchell Barak, a political analyst at Jerusalem-based Keevoon Global Research.

"Palestinians think that Israel is trying to change the status quo," said Mr. Barak, who has worked with Mr. Netanyahu. "Israel is exercising its sovereignty and sending a message [to Palestinians] that you have to walk through our metal detectors."

Meanwhile, Jordan's domestic security agency said two Jordanians were killed and an Israeli was wounded by gunfire on Sunday in a residential building in the heavily fortified Israeli Embassy compound in the capital Amman, the Associated Press reported. The agency said that before the shooting, Jordanians had entered the building for carpentry work. One of the Jordanians killed was a physician at the scene, it said. The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no comment.

Also on Friday, a Palestinian assailant mounted a bloody stabbing attack on an Israeli family in a West Bank settlement in response to the dispute over the Temple Mount, according to Israeli authorities and a Facebook post by the attacker that detailed his motives. He stabbed a father and his two adult children as they ate dinner, killing all three, Israeli authorities said.

Mr. Netanyahu on Sunday said authorities would demolish the home of the assailant and take action against Palestinians who incited violence or praised such attacks.

--Eli Stokols contributed to this article.

Write to Rory Jones at rory.jones@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 23, 2017 21:35 ET (01:35 GMT)

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