Thursday, July 20, 2017

Breaking news: Netanyahu rushes to security meet as Temple Mount tensions surge

Netanyahu rushes to security meet as Temple Mount tensions surge: PM convenes security chiefs upon arrival back in Israel as they continue to debate removing controversial metal detectors from holy site

Returning to Israel on Thursday from a visit to Hungary, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushed straight from the airport to the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv to meet his security chiefs in a bid to defuse mounting Muslim anger over metal detectors on the Temple Mount.

The meeting comes ahead of Friday prayers when tens of thousands of worshipers are expected to converge on the the flashpoint holy site, sparking fears of bloodshed, a week after the killing of two Israeli police officers at the site by three Arab Israelis.

At the meeting, scheduled for 8 p.m., officials were set discuss whether to remove the detectors that were placed at the Temple Mount after the killings that were launched from within the holy site.

There are divisions among the Israelis, with the police and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in favor of leaving the metal detectors in place, while the Shin Bet and the IDF favor removing them, fearing widespread unrest if they remain.

Police were preparing for the eventuality that the security officials will decided that the metal detectors remain in place, Channel 2 reported. Massive reinforcements have been sent to Jerusalem, while police are also said to be planning to limiting the number of Muslim worshipers allowed to enter the Temple Mount and blocking entry to the capital from other areas of the country.

Thousands of troops and police are slated to be deployed in Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to a Channel 2 news report.

Earlier Erdan, whose ministry includes responsibility for the Israel Police, said the metal detectors are essential to maintain security, despite a Muslim call for mass protests in the city if they are not removed.

Erdan told Army Radio that Netanyahu will rule on the issue after he holds the security consultations.

But Erdan rejected Arab accusations that new Israeli security measures are an attempt to expand control over the site and insisted they are necessary to carry out proper security checks.

“The Israeli police needs these metal detectors so the security checks can give a proper response to the security considerations,” he said. “I assume there are contacts internationally to try to calm the situation, but in my eyes there is no reason why the situation should not be calm.”

Earlier Thursday, police released videos of the terrorists and an accomplice smuggling the weapons used in the attack onto the Temple Mount without going through any security checks.

Since the appearance of the detectors there have been daily protests outside the Lion’s Gate entrance to the Temple Mount compound, the scene of the deadly terror attack. Many Muslim worshipers have refused to pass through the detectors and have instead prayed outside the gate.

There have also been violent clashes between rioters and police in various East Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Hamas on Thursday called for mass protests on Friday against the metal detectors.

In a televised speech, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh urged Palestinians to participate in a “day of rage” against the stepped up security measures, which were imposed after a Palestinian shooting attack that left two Israeli police officers dead.

Israel initially closed the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount following last Friday’s shooting attack. The compound, which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque, was reopened Sunday with metal detectors installed, a step Palestinians protest as a change to the longstanding status quo.

On Wednesday both Palestinian and Israeli sources said a US-brokered compromise could see the walk-through metal detector gates cleared from the holy site as demanded by Jordanian and Palestinian clerics. Instead, police would use hand-held metal detector wands (similar to those employed by security guards at Israeli malls), but only on those deemed to be suspicious.

Israeli security officials have yet to agree to implementation of the plan, according to reports at the time.

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