Thousands join Muslim prayer protests over Jerusalem shrine
JERUSALEM — Thousands of Palestinian Muslims prayed in the streets near Jerusalem’s most contested holy site Tuesday, heeding a call by clergy to not enter the shrine despite Israel’s seeming capitulation when it removed metal detectors it installed there a week earlier.
Muslim leaders said they would only call off the protests once they made sure Israel had restored the situation to what it was before the latest crisis.
Some Muslim officials alleged that Israel used the absence of Muslim clerics from the walled compound in the past week of protests to install new security cameras.
The continued standoff highlighted the deep distrust between Israel and the Palestinians when it comes to the shrine — the third-holiest in Islam and the most sacred in Judaism.
The 37-acre esplanade, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, has been a lightning rod for rival religious and national narratives of the two sides. It has triggered major confrontations in the past.
Israel seemed eager to put the crisis behind it and restore calm after a week of prayer protests, street clashes and several incidents of deadly violence.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government also faced a growing backlash at home for what critics said was hasty decision-making and embarrassing policy zigzags.
In a face-saving compromise, Israel’s security Cabinet announced that in place of the metal detectors, it would employ nonintrusive “advanced technologies,” reportedly smart cameras that can detect hidden objects. The new security system is to be set up in the next six months at a cost of $28 million.
Meanwhile, Palestinian politicians and Muslim clerics demanded that Israel restore the situation at the shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City to what it was before July 14. On that day, three Arab gunmen opened fire from the shrine at Israeli police guards, killing two before being shot dead.