Israel May Change Mosque Security Amid Palestinian Outrage

It was a hurried response to a brazen attack on the morning of July 14, when three armed Arab citizens of Israel emerged from Al Aqsa Mosque and fatally shot two Israeli Druze police officers who were guarding the compound. In an extraordinary move, Israel closed the site for two days while the police conducted searches there.


One of the new security cameras installed at the entrance to Al Aqsa Mosque.

Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press

Israel insisted that the new security measure did not mean any change to the delicate, decades-old status quo governing the running of the site. But that did not convince the Palestinians or other Arab governments, including Jordan, the custodian of the shrine.

The Israeli cabinet meeting was due to take place hours after the funerals of three Israeli victims of a terrorist attack on Friday night in the West Bank settlement of Halamish. Yosef Salomon, 70; his daughter, Chaya Salomon, 46, a teacher; and his son, Elad Salomon, 36, a father of five, were stabbed to death by an attacker identified as Omar al-Abed, 19, a Palestinian from a neighboring village who entered the house.

Elad Salomon’s wife, Michal, managed to escape upstairs with their children and hid them in a bedroom. The carnage ended when an off-duty soldier in a house across the street heard the family’s screams and shot Mr. Abed through a window, wounding him. The attacker is in custody and being treated at an Israeli hospital.

“Yosef, Chaya and Elad were murdered by a beast incited by Jew-hatred,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Sunday. “The home of the loathsome terrorist will be demolished as soon as possible.”

Ismail Haniya, the senior leader of Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, called Mr. Abed’s father and praised the attacker as a “hero,” officials in Gaza confirmed.

Earlier Friday, three Palestinians, two of them in their late teens, were shot dead in clashes with Israeli security forces that broke out after the Muslim noon prayer in and around East Jerusalem. Clashes also took place at various flash points in the West Bank and along Israel’s border with Gaza. Palestinian medics reported that a fourth Palestinian was killed in clashes on Saturday in the town of Al-Azariya on the eastern edge of Jerusalem. He was identified as Yousef Abbas Kashour, 21.


Israel introduced the electronic gates more than a week ago.

Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press

Mr. Netanyahu was about to board a plane for Europe last Saturday night when he announced that he had instructed that metal detectors be placed at the entrances to Al Aqsa. He also said Israel would install security cameras on poles outside the compound that would “give almost complete control over what goes on there.”

He said he had made the decision after a discussion with the top security leadership. Tension built over the following days, but at a meeting on Thursday that stretched into the early hours of Friday morning, the security cabinet decided to leave the metal detectors in place, against the advice of the Shin Bet internal security service and military officials who apparently feared an explosion of violence.

Right-wing members of Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition had urged him not to show a lack of resolve regarding Israel’s claim to Temple Mount by caving in to the Palestinians. Some Israeli commentators accused Mr. Netanyahu of having buckled under right-wing pressure.

Yoav Gallant, the Israeli minister of housing and construction and a general, was one of a minority of ministers who had voted to remove the metal detectors. He said he did so because the Palestinians were using them to whip up emotions against Israel and because the equipment was impractical, as the tens of thousands of Muslims who come to pray at Al Aqsa on Fridays would not have been able to pass through the security check in a reasonable amount of time.

Envoys of the so-called Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, issued a statement on Saturday urging all sides to “demonstrate maximum restraint, refrain from provocative actions and work toward de-escalating the situation.”

In Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, Muslim men laid their prayer mats on the ground near the Lion’s Gate, a few yards from the metal detectors, and performed noon prayer in the sweltering heat, under the gaze of armed Israeli police officers. Young boys handed out bottles of mineral water. A group of women laid down mats and prayed separately a few yards away; some had brought picnics.

Worshipers said they viewed the metal detectors as an Israeli provocation, and a humiliation.

“As long as the metal detectors are there, we won’t enter,” said Musa Basit, 55, a teacher of Islamic law at Al-Quds University. “If they take them down, we’ll go in. Things have to go back to how they were 10 days ago.”

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