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Muslims Return to Al Aqsa Mosque to Pray After Israel Removes Security Measures

But Israel took down the metal detectors on Tuesday after a diplomatic showdown with Jordan, the custodian of the shrine and a crucial regional ally. The crisis, more than a struggle over security measures, touched on the volatile and fundamental issues of ownership and control of the compound that is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

The extraordinary Palestinian civil disobedience campaign was coupled with bloodshed — three Israelis were stabbed to death and four Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces — and the decision to remove the remaining metal railings and scaffolding occurred under the threat of further violence.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group, had called for a “Day of Rage” on Friday, and Fatah, the rival mainstream faction led by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, similarly called for a day of rage last week and urged Palestinian Muslims to hold protest marches.

Amateur video footage showed trucks hauling away the last of the new security equipment through the Lion’s Gate of the Old City overnight Thursday. Crowds of Palestinians whistled, cheered and chanted, “Allahu akbar,” (God is the greatest) in triumph.

“Everyone stood as one man,” Mr. Abbas said on Thursday, praising the determination of the Palestinians who had stayed outside the mosque compound until Israel had restored the area around the mosque to its previous state.

Mr. Abbas added, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, “What concerns us is the continuation of support for our people and their steadfastness in their land, in their homes, in their homeland and in Jerusalem.”

Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Hamas movement, described the day’s events as a “victory,” adding in a statement that it was “the beginning of the defeat of the occupation over Jerusalem and Al Aqsa,” referring to Israel.

Israel’s police chief, Roni Alsheich, told reporters in the Old City on Thursday that the metal detectors and recently installed cameras had been dismantled because they were of no value at this time.

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war, and annexed the area in a move that was never internationally recognized. Under the delicate arrangements that have governed the site’s administration for decades, Jordan maintains a custodian role, reaffirmed in its peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

The Palestinians demand East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state alongside Israel, but peace talks have been at an impasse for years.

The current crisis began with a brazen attack on the morning of July 14, when three armed Arab citizens of Israel emerged from Al Aqsa Mosque and shot dead the two Israeli Druze police officers who were guarding the compound.

Since the metal detectors went up, three members of an Israeli family have been stabbed to death at their home in a West Bank settlement, and four Palestinians have been killed in clashes with security forces in and around Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

Israel’s relations with Jordan were further strained this week after an Israeli security guard, who was attacked in the Israeli Embassy compound in Amman, shot dead two Jordanians.

An Israeli announcement this week that the metal detectors would be replaced in coming months with other security tools like cameras with facial recognition software prompted a flood of rumors among Palestinians.

A young Palestinian woman who insisted on being identified only by her first name, Saha, said on Thursday that she had heard that the Israelis had installed “ultrasound” equipment underground, capable of seeing through clothing. The Israeli police have not managed to allay Palestinian suspicions.

Although the nearby Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, and other holy sites, including mosques, are equipped with metal detectors, the Palestinians viewed the Israeli-installed equipment as an affront to their dignity and as an assertion of Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the area.

Source: NYT > World

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