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Muslims hold street protests, prayers near Jerusalem shrine

Palestinians pray outside Jerusalem's Old City on July 21, 2017. Israel police, right, severely restricted Muslim access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday to prevent protests over the installation of metal detectors at the holy site. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Thousands of Muslims prayed Friday in the streets near a contested shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City, kneeling on mats spread on cobblestone to protest the installation of metal detectors at the holy site.

The prayers largely ended peacefully. In three areas near the Old City, Israeli forces fired tear gas to disperse small groups of Palestinian stone-throwers.

Muslim leaders had urged the faithful not to enter the sacred compound until Israel removes the detectors, portraying Israel’s measures as an encroachment on Muslim rights — a charge Israel denies.

The city’s top Muslim cleric, Mohammed Hussein, told worshippers Friday that he expects a “long test of wills” with Israel.

Israel also dug in, saying the devices would stay. Israel had installed the metal detectors after three Palestinians launched an attack from the shrine, killing two Israeli policemen a week ago. Police said the metal detectors are needed to prevent further attacks.

On Friday, police severely restricted Muslim access to the area of the Muslim-administered shrine, which is revered by Muslims and Jews.

Police set up checkpoints in and around Jerusalem to prevent widespread protests.
Some 3,000 police were deployed near the Old City, turning away Muslim men under the age of 50. Some worshippers who came from Israel and the West Bank were intercepted before reaching Jerusalem.

The dispute over the detectors has led to rising tensions between Israel and the Muslim world.

Palestinians run away from tear gas thrown by Israeli police officers outside Jerusalem’s Old City on July 21, 2017. Israel police severely restricted Muslim access to a contested shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday to prevent protests over the installation of metal detectors at the holy site. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Jordan, the custodian of the Jerusalem shrine, has repeatedly appealed to Israel to remove the devices. The two countries cooperate closely on regional security issues but frequently disagree on Israel’s policies at the shrine, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

On Friday, several thousand Jordanians protested against Israel in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

The raised 37-acre platform in Jerusalem houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is the third holiest site of Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The compound, once home to biblical Temples, is Judaism’s holiest site. The Western Wall, a Temple remnant, is the holiest site where Jews can pray.

The shrine sits at the center of rival Israeli and Palestinian national narratives and has triggered major confrontations in the past.

On Friday, thousands of worshippers gathered in the streets near the shrine, laying out their prayer mats under a scorching sun. Volunteers distributed water.

One of the main gathering points was the Old City’s Lion’s Gate, near the spot where the policemen were killed last week.

Jerusalem resident Hashem Abu Diab, 60, led the crowd at Lion’s Gate in chants of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great,” before noon prayers, the highlight of the Muslim religious week.

Abu Diab said the dispute has united Jerusalem’s Palestinians who consider the compound as their last sanctuary from Israel’s 50-year occupation of the eastern part of the city.

“The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the last place we have in this country,” he said. “If Al-Aqsa goes, we lose everything. We don’t leave until they remove the metal detectors.”

Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem, delivered the sermon at Lion’s Gate, where dozens of Israeli police stood near five metal detectors.

Hussein said the faithful must not enter the compound until Israel has removed the devices.

“We are exhausting Israel because all their military and intelligence are in the streets,” he said. “We are steadfast and we will not back off.”

Israeli police said in a statement that the metal detectors will remain in place, but suggested police may at times choose to only conduct spot checks. “Israeli police can decide on the level of checks,” said police spokeswoman Luba Samri.

The age restriction and police deployment came hours after Israel’s security Cabinet decided not to overrule an earlier police decision to install the metal detectors.

The decision to defer to police came amid reports of disagreement among Israel’s security services about the need for the metal detectors. The military and the Shin Bet security services, which deal directly with Palestinians and potential unrest, were reportedly opposed to the devices.

Israel had come under growing pressure this week, including from Jordan, to remove the metal detectors. The rule of Jordan’s Hashemite dynasty, said to trace its ancestry back to the Prophet Muhammad, rests to a large degree on its role as guardian of the site.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who oversees autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, asked the United States to “intervene urgently” and compel Israel to remove metal detectors, said an adviser, Nabil Abu Rdeneh.

Abbas discussed the growing tensions in Jerusalem in a phone call with Trump’s top adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Abu Rdeneh said.

The Palestinian leader told Kushner that the situation is “extremely dangerous and may go out of control,” Abu Rdeneh said.

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7 Comments

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  • There are metal detectors all around the Kaaba in Mecca – and no outrage from Muhammadans.
    This has nothing to do with metal detectors and everything to do with Palestinians wanting easier opportunities to murder innocent Israelis.

  • “Israeli forces fired tear gas to disperse small groups of Palestinian stone-throwers”

    And this is why I can’t take supporters of Palestinians seriously. Even when the opportunity for peaceful protest arose, they undermine it with violent actions designed to trigger a reprisal. Had they not been trying to assault police forces with rocks, and the tear gas was fired anyway, then there would be moral high ground. Now people can disregard the protests with ease.

    Palestinians are their own worst enemies.

  • And the hiding of weapons within the site and the killing of Israeli police caused the installation of the detectors at the Muslim entrance. The Israeli entrances already had the detectors. The rioting the last 4 days is responsible for the ban of Muslim men under 50, which in turn caused more protests. A vicious cycle. I think the Palestinian Authority is OK with this because it gives them a chance to condemn Israel and play the victim.

  • Imagine the difference if the protests were entirely peaceful!

    If the Palestinians had an MLK or even a Gerry Adams figure in their midst, there would already be a viable Palestinian state by now.

  • I had a similar thought that the PA tactics are imitating the Ghandi and MLK tactics but flawed because of the violence on their part. The dumbass PA also screws it up by going on record encouraging violence and creating videos encouraging and training children to throw rocks. Israel can justify and double-down their questionable policies by pointing to the violence. What a mess!

  • Why does this publication show the “protesters” praying but not throwing Molotov cocktails? Would that ruin your narrative?

  • The picture of them doing so is further down the article. It helps to read the whole thing before making such a comment.

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