Muslim Leaders Urge Faithful to Return to Al-Aqsa

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -
Muslim elders speak during a news conference Thursday regarding Israel’s removal of security measures at Har HaBayis. (Reuters/Muammar Awad)

Muslim leaders told the faithful to return to pray on Har HaBayis on Thursday after Israel removed security devices it installed outside entrances to the site following a deadly Palestinian terror attack at the compound. Thousands of Palestinians had been praying in the streets to protest the security measures since the crisis began.

“After extensive discussion and after achieving this victory in this round we call on our people in Jerusalem and inside [Israel] and anyone who can access the Al-Aqsa Mosque to enter … en masse,” the Islamic leaders declared in a statement.

The head of the Supreme Islamic Committee, Ikrema Sabri, said the first prayers would be held there Thursday afternoon.

Israel installed the new security measures earlier this month after Palestinian terrorists shot and killed two police officers from within the site.

It said the security measures were necessary to prevent more attacks and are standard procedure to ensure safety at sites around the world. Palestinians claimed Israel was trying to expand its control over the site.

The issue sparked some of the worst street clashes in years and threatened to draw Israel into conflict with other Arab and Muslim nations.

Israel removed the devices under intense pressure and said it plans to install sophisticated security cameras instead.

But Palestinian politicians and Muslim clerics had insisted that wasn’t enough and demanded Israel restore the situation to what it was before the July 14 attack.

The latest development could put Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a tough spot as he tries to tamp out a wave of unrest that has triggered international pressure, while not appearing to his hardline base as capitulating.