The Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday denied reports that Binyamin Netanyahu was considering removing the body scanners and metal detectors that had been installed at the entrances to Har HaBayis. “The Prime Minister consulted with top security officials on the situation and sought out their opinion” on removing the security measures, the PMO said. “To portray this as the Prime Minister seeking ways to remove the security measures is a distortion of reality,” the statement said.
The statement was released after a report by Channel Two Wednesday that Netanyahu was seeking an “elegant” way to retract the order he gave last weekend to install the security equipment before Friday, when tens of thousands of Arabs are expected to attempt to reach the Al Aqsa mosque on Har HaBayis. According to the report, the Shin Bet believes that the equipment should be removed, while Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and the Israel Police want to leave the new security measures in place.
In a long-distance discussion with Netanyahu, who is in Hungary at an international conference, Erdan and Israel Police Chief Roni Alshich said that the security equipment was the only way to ensure that Arabs did not smuggle arms onto Har HaBayis, as they did last week in preparation for the terror attack in the Old City last week, in which two Israeli police officers were killed. The Shin Bet, on the other hand, believes that appropriate use of intelligence and other methods is enough to prevent other arms smuggling efforts.
Earlier Wednesday, the Muslim Waqf declared that all Yerushalayim area mosques would be closed Friday, and that any Muslim interested in attending Friday services should come to the Al Aqsa Mosque. In the event that the security measures are still in place, prayers will be conducted at the gates of the Har HaBayis compound, as the Waqf is still boycotting the site until the equipment is removed.
Police have increased their presence in Yerushalayim, and IDF troops were on alert in Yehudah and Shomron as a promised “Day of Rage” over the placement of metal detectors and body scanners at the entrance to Har Habayis commenced Wednesday. By late afternoon Wednesday the day had passed relatively quietly, with several marches and riots reported in Ramallah. However, several mass rallies in Yerushalayim and Shechem were called for 6 p.m. Wednesday, and security officials said that those events had the potential of turning into “major incidents,” Channel Two reported.