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Palestinians reject new Israeli security measures at Jerusalem holy site

Israel has removed metal detectors at the al-Aqsa Mosque, but Palestinians are still unhappy with the new security measures. The Jerusalem Muslim community has continued to boycott the site.

Leaders of the Jerusalem Muslim community continued their boycott despite Israel removing some of the security equipment at the entry ways to the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The Waqf, a Jordanian controlled Muslim religious authority that runs the Islamic sites at the Al-Aqsa compound, said worshippers would continue to pray in the streets outside the marble and stone plaza. Ikrema Sabri, head of the Waqf's Supreme Islamic Committee, said that protesters were demanding that Israel opens the gates of the compound, remove an an iron bridge and metal railings and take down the newsly installed cameras near the mosque.
"We will not enter the mosque until these things are implemented," he told The Associated Press. "Now we are awaiting the response of the police."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the removal of metal detectors but also accused the Israeli authorities of trying to "destroy the Islamic character of Jerusalem."

"Israel took the right step to remove the metal detectors to help lower tension," Erdogan said."But is it enough according to our wishes? No, it is not," he added in a statement from Ankara, stressing that Turkey "cannot tolerate" constraints placed on Muslims.

Israel installed metal detectors at the 37-acre esplanade - known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary - after two security guards were killed by three Israeli Arabs on July 14. Violence ensued upon their installation, killing four Israelis and three Palestinians last Friday and Saturday.

To try to diffuse the tensions, Israeli security cabinet said it would replace the intrusive metal detectors with "smart checking" devices that can detect hidden objects. The new security system is to be installed in the next six months and cost 100 million shekels (24 million euros, $28 million).

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the top Muslim cleric who oversees the al-Aqsa Mosque both dismissed the new Israeli measures and demanded all of them be removed. Abbas also said the coordination between Israeli and Palestinian security forces will remain on hold until the security situation at the site is restored.

"All new Israeli measures put in place since [July 14] must be removed so things can go back to normal in Jerusalem and we can resume our work regarding bilateral relations," Abbas said at the beginning of a meeting with his political and security cabinet in Ramallah on Tuesday.

United States praises Israel

The Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary site is important to both religions. It not only houses the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock Islamic Shrine, but is also the ruins of the Biblical Jewish Temple. Palestinians have accused Israel of seeking to expand control at the holy site through security measures, a claim Israel denies.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas

President Mahmoud Abbas meeting with Palestinian authority executives in Ramallah

The White House said in a statement it "applauds the efforts of Israel to maintain security while reducing tensions in the region."

Last week's violence also prompted a session of the United Nations Security Council to consider ways of resolving the conflict.

"All parties should work to reduce these tensions and we offer whatever assistance we can in helping to do this," Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council in New York. "At the holy sites, it's vital that both access and security be ensured." Washington has already held talks with Israel and Jordan to help resolve the crisis.

dv/ng (AP, dpa, Reuters)