Israel faces mounting Palestinian anger over holy site metal detectors

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 20, 2017 6:24 AM

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is weighing whether to remove metal detectors at a Jerusalem holy site whose installation after a deadly attack last week has stoked Palestinian protests, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Thursday.

There have been nightly confrontations between Palestinians hurling rocks and Israeli police using stun grenades in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem since the devices were placed on Sunday at entrances to the Temple Mount-Noble Sanctuary compound.

Tensions remain high ahead of Friday prayers when thousands of Muslims usually flock to al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine, in the compound above Judaism's sacred Western Wall.

Muslim religious authorities, who say the metal detectors violate a delicate agreement on worship and security arrangements at the site, have been urging Palestinians not to pass through, and prayers have been held near an entrance to the complex.

Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Hamas Islamist movement that rules Gaza, called on Palestinian demonstrators to confront Israeli troops along the enclave's border on Friday in protest at the Israeli measure.

Netanyahu was due to hold security consultations over the issue, and likely decide on a course of action, on his return to Israel later in the day from visits to France and Hungary, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said.

Far-right members of Netanyahu's government have publicly urged him to keep the devices in place at the flashpoint site, but Israeli media reports said security chiefs were divided over the issue amid concerns of wider protests in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"The prime minister is considering whether to change this decision, and that's his prerogative," Erdan said on Army Radio. He described the equipment as a legitimate security measure.

Last Friday, three Arab-Israeli gunmen shot dead two Israeli policemen outside the Temple Mount-Noble Sanctuary complex in one of the most serious attacks in the area in years. The assailants were killed by security forces.

Israel briefly closed the compound, holy to Jews as the site of biblical temples, and install the metal detectors which it said were commonplace at religious sites worldwide.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank, in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem its capital, a claim that is not recognized internationally.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)