Israel reopens Aqsa Mosque compound, Muslims refuse to enter in protest
Israeli forces have reopened the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds two days after they closed it following a deadly shooting in the area, but Muslims refused to enter in protest to newly imposed security measures, including metal detectors and cameras.
The highly-sensitive compound, which includes the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, was reopened on midday Sunday after the Israeli regime closed it on Friday, shortly after a bloody gunfight in the courtyard of the sacred site left two Israeli policemen and three Palestinians dead.
Israeli authorities at the time said the closure was necessary to install metal detectors and additional cameras in a bid to boost security in the compound, but the highly unusual decision of banning Muslims to hold Friday prayers in the mosque sparked anger and condemnation both from Palestinians and Jordan, custodians of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
The unusual and provocative decision in closing the site also set off a flurry of condemnation from the Muslim world with the Arab League calling it a dangerous move. Other Muslim countries also slammed the closure as a violation of the basic rights of Palestinians.
On Sunday, dozens of Muslim worshipers held midday prayers outside the compound, at an entrance to the site next to the Lions’ Gate entry to the Old City, in a bid to show their dissent with the newly-implemented measures.
“We reject the changes imposed by the Israeli government. We will not enter through these metal detectors,” said Sheikh Omar Kiswani, al-Aqsa director.
The order to set up metal detectors and cameras in the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, came directly from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he spoke of the new measures late on Saturday.
“I instructed that metal detectors be placed at the entrance gates to the Temple Mount. We will also install security cameras on poles outside the Temple Mount but which give almost complete control over what goes on there,” he said.
Israeli police said that shortly after the reopening of the site some 200 people had passed through the gates.
According to an agreement signed between the Tel Aviv regime and the Jordanian government, after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem al-Quds in 1967, visits to the compound by Israelis are permitted but non-Muslim worship is prohibited.
The occupied lands have witnessed tensions ever since Israeli forces imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound two years ago.
The Tel Aviv regime has been trying to change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem al-Quds by constructing settlements, destroying historical sites and expelling the local Palestinian population.
More than 300 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces since October 2015, when the tensions intensified.
Tel Aviv has come under fire for using violence against Palestinians and adopting a policy of shoot-to-kill.