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Israel insists metal detectors will stay in mosque despite rising violence

Israelis and Palestinians brace for further confrontations in Jerusalem as death toll rises in wake of new security crackdown

23 July 2017, 4:21pm
Palestinian Muslims pray outside the Lion's Gate following an appeal from clerics to pray in the streets instead of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound
Palestinian Muslims pray outside the Lion's Gate following an appeal from clerics to pray in the streets instead of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound
Israeli officials have said they will not remove metal detectors from outside a Jerusalem mosque, despite their installation triggering rapidly escalating confrontations with Palestinians.

Amid a mounting toll of deaths and injuries in the crisis, Israelis and Palestinians are braced for weeks of confrontation, as both sides appeared to dig in to their positions.

In addition to the metal detectors, Israel has also began installing sophisticated security cameras at one of the entrances to the compound housing the al-Aqsa mosque, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif and revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

Security officials told Israeli media the cameras were intended to complement the metal detectors, not replace them.

Despite the remarks – and with Israeli generals warning the violence may spiral – other officials appeared to offer a contradictory message, saying the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was considering alternatives to the walk-through sensors placed at entrances to the al-Aqsa mosque compound after two policemen were shot dead there on14 July.

The mixed signals emerging from the Israeli side have contributed to the sense of confusion driving the crisis, during which Israeli ministers have reportedly overruled warnings from senior security officials about the risk of stoking a widening confrontation with the installation of the devices.

But as Israel’s cabinet met on Sunday with the issue on top of the agenda, Tzachi Hanegbi, the minister for regional development and a senior member of the ruling Likud party, told Army Radio: “They (metal detectors) will remain. The murderers will never tell us how to search the murderers. If they (Palestinians) do not want to enter the mosque, then let them not enter the mosque.”

As other ministers warned of the risk of ‘large scale volatility’, Israel deployed thousands of extra troops to the West Bank.

The UN security council will also hold closed-door talks on Monday about the spiralling violence after Egypt, France and Sweden sought a meeting to “urgently discuss how calls for de-escalation in Jerusalem can be supported”.

In a further indication of the hardening of positions, the Muslim authorities that oversee al-Aqsa said they would continue to oppose any new Israeli-imposed measures.

The issue exploded into more serious violence on Friday, after days of night-time clashes after the metal detectors, installation, which followed the attack on 14 July that killed two Israeli policemen at the entrance to the site by three Israeli Arabs who Israel says smuggled weapons into the compound.

In clashes that have grown in intensity since mass protests on Friday, four Palestinians have been killed in confrontations with Israeli security forces, while a family of three Israeli settlers was stabbed to death by a Palestinian who entered their home in the West Bank citing the issues around the al-Aqsa mosque as his motive

The sheer scale of the risks involved was made clear on Sunday morning when the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas – who has long threatened to end security cooperation with Israel – cancelled a planned security meeting after announcing he was cutting all contacts.