New NIS 100M Har HaBayis Security System to Be Ready in 6 Months

Palestinians walk next to Israeli security forces at the entrance to Har HaBayis, Tuesday. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

With the removal of security apparatus from Har HaBayis Monday night – including body scanners, metal detectors and high-resolution cameras – there are now no security measures in place at all at the site.

However, police promise, that will not remain the case for long; police are in the midst of setting up a “smart camera and sensor system” that will provide the necessary security, without setting off riots and unrest.

The system will be fully in place within half a year, police promise. The government allocated NIS 100 million for the project, which was approved last year. The cameras have not been placed at the site until now because of opposition from the Waqf, but police said that with the murder of two Israeli police officers by Arab terrorists who hid weapons and took refuge on Har HaBayis a week and a half ago, the security measures are necessary.

Police said that the security system would not be set up at the entrances to Har Habayis, but at some distance – at the beginning of the corridor that leads to the entrance, instead of the entrance itself – and would provide police with all the information they needed about who was entering the site, and whether they were carrying dangerous materials. Individuals pegged by the system as a risk will be arrested before they can enter the compound.

The Waqf, meanwhile, said that it opposed this plan as well. Despite the removal of the security equipment Monday night, the group called on Muslims to continue to refuse to enter the Har HaBayis compound and to continue their protests, until a report on the situation that was being prepared by the group was completed.

As Israel removed the security equipment from Har HaBayis, an Israeli security guard who was wanted in Jordan for questioning in the death of two Jordanians returned home. Jordan has demanded that Israel surrender the guard for questioning after he shot and killed a Jordanian who stabbed him. Israel refused to do so, claiming that the security guard has diplomatic immunity. A second Jordanian citizen who was wounded in the incident – the owner of the apartment – has died as well. The stabber was a 17-year-old Jordanian who was doing carpentry work in the apartment.

Speaking to Cabinet members Monday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denied that there had been a quid-pro-quo, in which the security measures would be removed in exchange for the return of the security guard.

Jordanian media, meanwhile, claimed that such a deal had been made, after intervention by the Americans. The father of the stabber told Jordanian media Monday that as far as he was concerned, his son was a “martyr,” and that the only possible punishment for the security guard was the death penalty.

Jordanian media was nearly entirely focused on the story Monday, with editorials in newspapers and broadcast media also demanding the death penalty.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the senior Muslim cleric who oversees the Al-Aqsa compound both turned down the new Israeli measures and demanded all of them be removed.

“We reject all obstacles that hinder freedom of worship and we demand the return to the situation where things stood before July 14,” Hamdallah told his cabinet in Ramallah, Tuesday.

A Waqf spokesman said it was awaiting a decision of a technical committee but was demanding the situation revert to the way it was before July 14, when the metal detectors were installed.

David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said while visiting the Knesset that Washington had talks with Israel and Jordan to resolve the crisis.

“(There was) a lot of hard work behind the scenes, discussions by senior officials in the United States, and of course, with the prime minister and with the king of Jordan, [and] we were able to defuse the situation very quickly that obviously, under other circumstances, could have not ended as successfully,” Friedman said.

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