YERUSHALAYIM - As promised, Har HaBayis was reopened to Muslims Sunday afternoon — but was briefly closed again a few minutes later, as a mini-riot developed over the new requirement for Muslims to pass through metal detectors in order to enter the compound. The mufti of Yerushalayim arrived at one of the gates of Har HaBayis with dozens of people, and demanded that he, and they, be allowed to pass without a security check. The request was denied, and loud shouting and arguing ensued. The group then began to conduct their prayers in place, outside the compound, as police shut the site until things were brought under control.
Speaking to foreign reporters, Omar Kaswani, the director of the Muslim Waqf, said that Muslims “reject these changes that the Israelis are forcing on us. We will not pass through a metal detector.” Commenting on the situation, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that “the problem is not that the Waqf opposes passing through body scanners and metal detectors, but that we have placed these on Har HaBayis altogether. This is the reason for the delay in reopening the site. Some of the worshipers did pass through the scanners, despite calls by the Waqf not to do so. The Waqf was trying to persuade all Muslims not to enter until the scanners and detectors were removed.” Israeli police estimated that 200 worshipers did elect to go through.
The decision to install the new security systems at the entrances to Har HaBayis was made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu before he left for summits in Europe. Speaking Motzoei Shabbos, Netanyahu said the new measures, including body scanners, metal detectors and cameras, “will give us visual control over nearly the entire compound and everything that goes on there. We will reopen Har HaBayis gradually, with additional security measures.”
Until now, only Jews and foreign visitors were subject to security checks; Muslims were allowed to enter freely. According to police, the three terrorists who carried out Friday’s terror attack carried guns and knives into the Har HaBayis compound and hid them there. Police said the three were planning to attack Israelis in the Old City and then run away and take refuge in the mosques on Har HaBayis, either believing that Israeli police officers would not follow them there, or that they would be able to fight police and soldiers off with the hidden weapons.
Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy chief of the Palestinian Authority, told a Ramallah radio station that the new security measures were “an insult” and “unacceptable. We absolutely refuse to [accept] these measures. Israel must prevent settlers from entering the compound.” It was the permission Israel gave Jews to enter the compound that was responsible for the terror attack, he charged. “Israel and the army are to blame for the attack. We must stop them from taking over the Al Aqsa Mosque.”
Updated Sunday, July 16, 2017 at 6:40 pm