Israel’s security cabinet announced late Monday evening that metal detectors installed at the gates of the al-Aqsa mosque compound would be removed and replaced with “smart cameras,” following more than a week of protests and upheaval against the new security measures installed following a deadly shooting at the site. The removal of the metal detectors was completed by Tuesday.
“The Security Cabinet accepted the recommendation of all of the security bodies to incorporate security measures based on advanced technologies (“smart checks”) and other measures instead of metal detectors in order to ensure the security of visitors and worshippers in the Old City and on the Temple Mount,” the cabinet said in a statement referring to the al-Aqsa compound by the Israeli term.
The cabinet added that until the replacement measures were installed, which could take up to six months, Israeli police will “reinforce its units and carry out additional actions as necessary in order to ensure the security of visitors.” A budget of 100 million shekels ($28 million) has been allocated to cover the entire cost of the plan, including the extra police forces and equipment.
Palestinians have thus far rejected the plan, and by Tuesday afternoon Palestinians were still refusing to enter the mosque compound.
Munther Amira, the head of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) in the occupied West Bank told Mondoweiss that he does not believe the Palestinian population in Jerusalem or elsewhere will accept Israel’s new offer.
“Nothing about this is acceptable, the only option we accept is the to return the status of the mosque back to the status quo without cameras or any other additions,” Amira said. “We will not accept any kind of cameras they are installing.”
Amira explained that Palestinians view the extra security measures as a way for Israel to exert its control over the al-Aqsa mosque, considered the third holiest site in Islam and the site where the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, is believed to have stood.
“Yes there have been Israeli guards outside the compound, but it is under Palestinian control within the compound, with Palestinian guards — so our stance is that putting any kind of new administrations on the ground will give Israel new control over the mosque, which is what the Israelis have always wanted, and what we will not accept” he said. “Any new cameras or gates or what have you at the mosque will help to out the mosque between the Israeli’s hands, it is not a security issue the way they are saying, it is an issue of who has control over the mosque.”
On Monday, hours before the Israeli security cabinet meeting, Palestinian civic and religious leaders met to discuss the possibility of replacing metal detectors with new technology security cameras. According to official Palestinian state media agency Wafa, the leaders rejected the possibility of metal detectors being replaced with the new cameras.
On Tuesday, Wafa reiterated its commitment to rejecting any new security measures at the mosque compound, even after the removal of the metal detectors, stating that “Palestinians in Jerusalem rejected the new announcement, calling such plans another Israeli trick.
The Islamic Waqf, the Islamic Endowment from Jordan charged with protection of the al-Aqsa mosque compound, said it would not be satisfied until “all manifestations of aggression by the Zionist occupation are removed and the situation returns to what it was like before July 14,” the day three Palestinian gunmen were shot dead after shooting and killing two Israeli police officers near the mosque compound, sparking Israel’s move to install extra security in the area. Hours before the attack, Israeli forces shot and and killed an 18-year-old in Dheisha refugee camp during clashes that erupted while Israeli forces were raiding the camp.
After the incident, Israeli authorities closed the al-Aqsa mosque compound for the first time since 1967. Three days later, that following Sunday, Israeli forces reopened the mosque with security cameras, metal detectors, turnstiles and metal barricades. Palestinians immediately announced that they would refuse to enter the mosque until the security measures were removed, instead taking to the streets outside of the mosque compound to pray and protest.
Protests across the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and in isolated areas of Israel have raged on since then. On Friday July 21, Israeli forces shot and killed three Palestinian youth during protests, and have injured at least 1,090 demonstrators, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.