Metal detectors to remain at Temple Mount
Following protracted cabinet discussions on whether or not to remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount entrances amid furor from Muslim worshippers and pledges to stage a 'day of rage' Friday, police given responsibility to take decision, begin reinforcing the site in anticipation of violent riots; police insist decision ultimately lies with political echelons.
The decision was reached after protracted discussions held by the Security Cabinet overnight Thursday resulted in the assignment of responsibility for removing or keeping the detectors at the site to the police.
Nevertheless, it was not long before ambiguity arose as to who was actually responsible for the decision, with the police insisting that the green light was ultimately given by the political echelons which they said will decide if and when the detectors are removed.
Speaking in an interview with Ynet Friday morning, Police Spokeswoman Commander Merav Lapidot undermined the cabinet’s position that it had delegated total responsibility to the police.
“The cabinet decided that the metal detectors will stay at the entrances to the Temple Mount,” she said. “This is a cabinet decision and they approved the detectors.”
Jerusalem District Commander Police Chief Yoram Halevi also decided that other measures would be taken, such as sending thousands more police officers to guard the site in anticipation of the “day of rage” which has been declared by Arab leaders ahead of mass Friday prayers.
Other steps being taken Friday morning included the restriction of entry to the Old City and the Temple Mount to men aged 50 and above. Women of all ages will be permitted to enter as usual.
In a move apparently intended to whip up further hysteria at the compound and possibly instigate more violence, the Waqf announced Wednesday that all mosques in Jerusalem would be closed on Friday, thereby forcing thousands of Muslims from east Jerusalem to join the protests.
But despite the expected influx of what will likely be inflamed worshippers, Halevi instructed his forces to respect the prayer goers.
“The Temple Mount, like every holy place, is open and guarded according to the status quo at the site. The police expects from leaders and public officials to denounce expressions and acts of incitement and violence. It also expects that they will show responsibility and act to calm the mood,” the police said.
“We will not allow anyone to violate the status quo and harm the sanctity of the holy sites, with access to them, freedom of worship and religion,” the police added.
The Security Cabinet’s discussions were held immediately upon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return from a state visit to Europe, during which a number of alternatives were considered to replace the detectors while maintaining security on the ground. Ultimately, it was decided “to authorize the police to make the decision."
Following the conclusion on the discussions, a statement read: “Israel is obligated to preserve the status quo on the Temple Mount and freedom of access to the holy sites. Israel is obligated to protect the safety of all worshippers and visitors on the Temple Mount.”
The statement then went on to justify giving the police the final say. It was, it said, “to protect free access to the holy sites, while at the same time maintaining security and public order.”
The heavy reinforcements are testamant to the fact that the police are taking no chances, particularly given the violent riots that have marked the past week outside the compound.
In the early hours of Friday morning, police stopped a bus in the Latrun area carrying Arab Israeli worshippers making their way to Al-Aqsa mosque and prevented them from entering Jerusalem.
More clashes broke out Thursday evening between hundreds of Muslim rioters and Israel Police forces at the Lions' Gate, with demonstrators hurling bottles of water and stones at policemen, prompting police to respond with stun grenades.
About ten demonstrators were lightly injured and treated as a result of the clash but the rioters stated their intention to remain at the site and wreak havoc until the metal detectors were removed.