After gunmen shot and killed two Israeli guards near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem on July 14, the Israeli government installed metal detectors and security cameras at the site, a move that has outraged Palestinians.
The al-Aqsa compound is considered Islam’s third holiest site, and the Palestinians have accused Israel of “attacking al-Aqsa and changing the religious landmarks of Jerusalem,” according to Al Jazeera news outlet.
“We affirm the historical and religious right to the al-Aqsa Mosque and warn that the Israeli occupation attempts to evade the benefits of peace,” Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said.
“We condemn all Israeli measures that deprive the Palestinian people of their right to perform acts of worship and reject all obstacles that prevent worship, which is the right of all international conventions. We demand a return to the status quo before July 14.”
After a long meeting on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration conceded to removing the metal detector gates they had installed at the site’s entrance, but have added advanced surveillance cameras with face recognition software. However, Muslim officials are not pleased and want the cameras gone, as well.
On Tuesday, the director of the mosque, Sheikh Najeh Bakirat, said leaving the security cameras in place “does not fulfill the demands” of the Muslim worshippers.
Another al-Aqsa official, Sheikh Raed Saleh, said Palestinians will “never accept the current status, unless everything that was added after July 14 was removed.”
Hundreds of Palestinians are reportedly protesting against the security cameras
Al Jazeera reporter Imran Khan said that Israeli officials had fired stun grenades and rubber bullets at the protesters, and had brought in more security forces.
“There’s a huge amount of anger. Palestinians say they will never accept any security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound,” Khan reported.
Palestinians claim the security measures are an “unacceptable infringement” on their most sacred sites and are now refusing to enter the compound, praying in the streets in protest, instead. They view accepting the security cameras or metal detectors as conceding to Israel’s control over the site, and the entire issue is reportedly turning into a crisis that threatens to explode into more violence.
Hundreds have been injured amid the protests and clashes over the new security measures. At least five Palestinians have been killed.
The United National Security Council has now gotten involved and is looking for a way to bring calm to the situation.
After a UN Security Council briefing, Nickolay Mladenov reportedly said, “The dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayer without a resolution to this current crisis.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who is the custodian of the al-Aqsa compound, has reportedly asked Netanyahu to remove the security cameras, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened on Friday to “freeze all contact” with Israel.
On Friday, a 19-year-old Palestinian man broke into the home of a Jewish family in Israel and brutally stabbed three members of the family to death before he was stopped by a neighbor’s gunshot.
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