The situation remained tense on Wednesday between Israelis and Palestinians around the Mosque esplanade in Jerusalem despite the withdrawal of controversial metal detectors, raising fears of an eruption of violence during Friday’s great prayer.
Muslims still refused to enter the third place of Islam on Wednesday and prayed in the adjacent streets as they have been doing for more than ten days, an AFP journalist said.
Tensions abruptly mounted around this religious site in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian part – occupied and annexed by Israel – of the city, after the Jewish state installed metals detectors on 16 July the esplanade.
Palestinian Muslims had seen an attempt by Israel to increase its control over this site, administered by Jordan.
The Israeli authorities justified this by the fact that the attackers who had killed two Israeli policemen on 14 July had concealed weapons on the site and had gone out to carry out their attack.
Five Palestinians were killed last week during the clashes that broke out after the detectors were installed. Three Israelis were also killed during the same period by a Palestinian in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
After intense pressure from the international community, fearing an escalation, Israel finally agreed to remove the detectors on Tuesday.
But the government said it would replace them with another means of inspection, “based on advanced technologies”, much to the dismay of the Muslim authorities who maintained the instruction to boycott the site.
Clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli security forces broke out late Tuesday on the outskirts of the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Esplanade of the Mosques is located. The clashes killed 13 Palestinian wounded, according to the Palestine Red Crescent.
According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Israeli government wants to set up a network of sophisticated surveillance cameras, based on biometric recognition technology.
To identify possible suspects, the system would use a database of photos that could come from the police, the Shin Bet, the internal security service and ministries, the newspaper said.
“We reject the metal detectors, we reject the cameras,” said Omar Maath, an Israeli Arab from Nazareth in northern Israel, to pray at the entrance to the esplanade.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas demanded Tuesday a return to the situation before July 14 to lift the freeze on cooperation with Israel.
‘Ottoman Empire Over’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed Israel’s decision to remove the metal detectors at the entrances to the esplanade, but said it was “not enough”.
Israel reacted by stating in a statement by the Foreign Ministry that “the only real democracy in the region” had no “moral lessons” to be received from the Turkish government “that invaded northern Cyprus, Brutally kill the Kurdish minority and imprison journalists “.
“The days of the Ottoman Empire are gone,” he added.
An Israeli police spokeswoman said on Tuesday that “the latter does not use any type of privacy camera and has no intention of doing so in the future.”
The White House welcomed Wednesday the decision to remove metal detectors, praising “Israel’s efforts to ensure security while reducing tensions in the region.”
The entrances to the esplanade where the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Rock Dome are located are controlled by Israel, which calls it Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism, but is managed by Jordan. Muslims can go there at any time. Jews can only enter it at certain hours and have no right to pray there.
The Israeli authorities assert that they do not intend to change these tacit rules.