Israel said on Sunday it will not remove the metal detectors at the entrance to Har HaBayis but could eventually reduce their use, as a high-ranking Trump administration official headed to the region to try to reduce tensions.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet on Sunday evening. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will halt security ties with Israel until it scraps the metal detectors, which were installed after Israeli Arab terrorists murdered two Israeli Druze police officers and wounded one in an attack in the area on Friday, July 14.
Many Palestinians have refused to go through the metal detectors, holding street prayers and often-violent protests.
The metal detectors “will remain,” Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli minister for regional development, told Army Radio. “The murderers will never tell us how to search the murderers. If [the Palestinians] do not want to enter the mosque, then let them not enter the mosque.”
Reuters witnesses reported some light clashes between Muslim worshippers and Israeli security forces after prayers at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday night. Palestinian medical sources did not report any serious injuries.
The spike in tensions have triggered international alarm and prompted the United Nations Security Council to convene a meeting for Monday to seek ways of calming the situation.
On Sunday evening, a senior Trump administration official told Hamodia that Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations, departed for Israel “to support efforts to reduce tensions in the region,” noting that Greenblatt “will be closely coordinating with Jared Kushner’s office and the NSC, as well as Ambassador David Friedman and the State Department.”
“President Trump and his administration are closely following unfolding events in the region,” the official said. “The United States utterly condemns the recent terrorist violence including the horrific attack Friday night that killed three people at their Shabbat dinner table in Halamish and sends condolences to the families of the innocent victims. We are engaged in discussions with the relevant parties and are committed to finding a resolution to the ongoing security issues.”
Abbas, referring to the metal detectors in a speech on Sunday, said: “If Israel wants security coordination to be resumed, they have to withdraw those measures.
“They should know that they will eventually lose, because we have been making it our solemn duty to keep up security on our side here and on theirs.”
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, warned of potential “large-scale volatility” – a prospect made more likely in Yehudah and Shomron by the absence of Abbas’ help.
Erdan said Israel may eventually do away with metal-detector checks for Muslims entering the Al-Aqsa compounds under alternative arrangements under review. Such arrangements could include reinforcing Israeli police at the entrances and introducing CCTV cameras with facial-recognition technologies.
“There are, after all, many worshippers whom the police know, regulars, and very elderly people and so on, and it recommended that we avoid putting all of these through metal detectors,” Erdan told Army Radio, suggesting that only potential troublemakers might be subjected to extra screening.
Any such substitute arrangement was not ready, he added.
However, the Muslim authorities that oversee Al-Aqsa said they would continue to oppose any new Israeli-imposed measures.
“We stress our absolute rejection of … all measures by the Occupation that would change the historical and religious status in Jerusalem and its sacred sites,” the Palestinian grand mufti, acting Palestinian chief justice and Jordanian-run Waqf religious trust said in a joint statement.
Turkey also urged the removal of the metal detectors, and the Arab League said Israel was “playing with fire.”