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Jordan PM: Plan for security cameras in Al-Aqsa compound halted

April 18, 2016 9:02 P.M. (Updated: April 19, 2016 2:23 P.M.)
AMMAN (Ma’an) -- Jordan has decided to halt the installation of surveillance cameras inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, stalling months of negotiations regarding the holy site, Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah al-Nsoor said on Monday.

The decision was reached after “some of our people in Palestine complained and expressed reservations toward the process,” Jordan’s official news agency Petra quoted al-Nsoor as saying.

The initial aim of installing the cameras, he added, was to help counter regular Israeli violations in the Al-Aqsa compound.

“Israel has always succeeded in acquitting itself of such charges because the violations were not being documented, and we thought the surveillance cameras would help us document them,” he said.

Al-Nsoor pointed out that the Jordanians wanted the cameras only in the courtyards and not inside the mosques.

“Because we respect the points of view of our brothers in Palestine, and in Jerusalem in particular, we reached the conclusion that the project could be controversial and so we decided to halt it,” al-Nsoor said.

Surveillance cameras in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound had been the subject of tense discussions between Israel and Jordan, the official custodian of Muslim holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem, for months.

In October, Israel and Jordan, under mediation by the United States, agreed to install surveillance cameras across the mosque compound in a bid to ease tensions that began across the occupied Palestinian territories around that time.

Tensions were triggered in part by increased visitation to the holy site by far-right extremists accompanied by armed Israeli forces. Such visits often coincide with prevention of Palestinian access to the site.

The installation of the cameras has raised major concern among a number of Palestinians that Israeli authorities -- who would have also had access to the surveillance footage -- would use the cameras against Palestinians.

In October, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called the plan “a new trap” to identify and detain worshipers at Al-Aqsa Israel believes to be “inciting” against it.

Palestinian Knesset member Basel Ghattas of the Arab Joint List also opposed the decision, saying it was made with the intention of securing Israeli control over the holy site.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound lies under Israeli military occupation, and while control of the mosque officially falls under Jordanian guardianship, Palestinians fear that increased presence of Israeli security forces around the site marks a potential move by Israel to renege on past agreements for the holy site.
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