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Palestinians pray outside Al-Aqsa Mosque in protest of new metal detectors

July 17, 2017 11:11 A.M. (Updated: July 17, 2017 10:16 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinians performed prayers outside of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound Monday to show their opposition to new metal detectors installed by Israeli authorities at the mosque's entrances, which came in response to a deadly shooting attack at the holy site on Friday. Meanwhile, Jewish Israelis were again allowed to enter the compound freely without the presence of Al-Aqsa security guards.

Dozens of Muslim worshipers, all Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem, refused to pass through the metal detectors and gathered for dawn and afternoon prayers outside of the Lions' Gate entrance to the compound, which was opened Sunday after the compound had been under a rare closure since the attack.

Several Palestinians, both men and women, described the metal detectors as violation of their right to freedom of worship and their right to enter the mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, freely.

Israeli forces had installed a total of nine metal detectors at the Lions' Gate (Bab al-Asbat), the Chain Gate (Bab al-Silsila), and the Council Gate (Bab al-Majlis).

Story continues below.
Dawn prayers outside of Al-Aqsa
Officials from the Waqf, the Islamic endowment that runs Al-Aqsa, expressed its rejection of the new security measures on Sunday, saying at the time that Israeli authorities had contacted a group of the Waqf guards and ordered them not go to the mosque.

Waqf leaders released a statement Monday, cosigned by the chairman of the Waqf council, the head of the higher Islamic committee, the grand mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, and the acting supreme judge, urging the Palestinian people "in Jerusalem and Palestine" to "travel to Al-Aqsa Mosque to worship," and join the boycott of the metal detectors.

"If metal detectors continue to be imposed as the only way to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque, we urge our people to continue to perform prayers in front of the gates or in the streets and alleys of Jerusalem."

The Arab League called on Israel to stopped all its new security procedures in Jerusalem, following an emergency meeting to discuss the recent developments regarding Al-Aqsa.

Palestine representative to the Arab League Jamal al-Shubaki told official Palestinian news agency Wafa that Israel was launching a “fierce war” against the Palestinian people, adding that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seeking to change the status quo in Jerusalem and divide Al-Aqsa into Jewish and Muslim sections -- as happened in Hebron following the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque massacre.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri wrote in a statement that the dozens of worshipers who performed midday prayer in the street near the Lions' Gate were told to move to one side of the road to "avoid blocking the road and endangering their lives."

The worshipers obeyed the instructions, except for one minor who was "suspected of hurling a bottle at (Israeli) forces and was detained for questioning," al-Samri said.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities reopened the compound to Jewish visitors Monday morning for the first time since the attack. Israeli news daily Haaretz reported that the Jewish Israelis were free to roam the compound, as there were no Waqf guards at the site.

Haaretz quoted a statement from the Joint Committee of Temple Organizations, a lobbying group that seeks to secure Jewish prayer rights at the compound, as celebrating the fact that it for "the first time since the Six Day War Jews are able to go freely to the site, without being hassled by the Waqf," Haaretz wrote.

The right-wing movement reportedly said it applauded Israeli police for "amending the historic wrong" on the Temple Mount -- the Israeli term for the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound -- and praised Israeli police commander Yoram Halevy for his "determination and courage."

However, Israeli NGO Ir Amim denounced the Israeli procedures on Monday as amounting to collective punishment.

“Those who must be held accountable for the attack are the people responsible for its perpetration, not the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding worshipers who pray at the Mount,” the organization said, referring to the compound by the Israeli term “Temple Mount.”

Meanwhile, the Hamas movement applauded Al-Aqsa's security guards and worshipers for refusing to pass through the metal detectors, "which are meant to tighten the grip on Al-Aqsa," the movement wrote in a statement Monday.

"These unprecedented measures will not be successful. They will fail to provide security for the Zionists and fail to strip our people of their right to Al-Aqsa Mosque and the right to pray freely inside it," the Palestinian political faction said.

Hamas said it called upon the Palestinian people to "confront the Zionist occupation forces and to break the chains around Al-Aqsa Mosque," and urged Arab and Muslim nations to support Jerusalemites.

The Islamic Jihad movement released a statement on Sunday evening, threatening to make the "Israeli occupation pay a toll" for its aggression and procedures at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

"The Palestinian people will not abandon their sacred duty to protect Al-Aqsa and defend their dignity and the dignity of the Jerusalemite people and the Murabitun, in Jerusalem and in Al-Aqsa Mosque."

The movement said that Israel had "taken advantage of the inadvertence of Arabs and Muslims, and their reluctance to carry out a real action to stop the occupation's daily violations of the sacredness of Al-Aqsa Mosque" by enforcing the new "aggressive" security measures.

Palestinian officials held a meeting on Sunday to discuss the Israeli measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, affirming that the status quo at the compound should remain as it was before the deadly shooting, expressing opposition to the Israeli decision to install the metal detectors.

Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. However, non-Muslims are permitted to visit the site during designated times.

Palestinians have long feared that Israel has been attempting to shake up the status quo at the holy site, in the shape of routine Jewish incursions on the site and right-wing Israeli calls to demolish the mosque and replace it with a third Jewish temple.
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