By Reuters – Jul 21,2017 – JORDAN TIMES
Palestinians perform prayer near new metal detectors, outside one of the main entrances to Al Aqsa Mosque, refusing to enter because of the detectors installed by Israel, as the holy site reopened for the first time on Sunday since a two-day closure following a deadly shootout in Jerusalem on Thursday (Anadolu Agency photo)
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is weighing whether to remove metal detectors at a Jerusalem holy site whose installation after a deadly attack last week has stoked Palestinian protests, an Israeli Cabinet minister said on Thursday.
Tensions remain high ahead of Friday prayers when thousands of Muslims usually flock to Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine.
The Israeli occupation forces said they had put five battalions on standby to reinforce troops in the occupied West Bank if required.
Muslim religious authorities, who say the metal detectors violate a delicate agreement on worship and security arrangements at the Jerusalem site, have been urging Palestinians not to pass through, and prayers have been held near an entrance to the complex.
Netanyahu was due to hold security consultations over the issue, and likely decide on a course of action, on his return to Israel later in the day from visits to France and Hungary, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said.
Far-right members of Netanyahu’s government have publicly urged him to keep the devices in place at the flashpoint site, but Israeli media reports said security chiefs were divided over the issue amid concerns of wider protests in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“The prime minister is considering whether to change this decision, and that’s his prerogative,” Erdan said on Army Radio. He described the equipment as a legitimate security measure.
Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Hamas Islamist movement that rules Gaza, called on Palestinian demonstrators to confront Israeli troops along the enclave’s border on Friday.
“Let Friday be a turning point in the battle in the defence of Jerusalem and Al Aqsa,” Haniyeh said in a televised speech.
Last Friday, Israeli forces shot dead three Arab-Israeli men.
Israel briefly closed the compound, holy to Jews as the site of biblical temples, and installed the metal detectors which it said were commonplace at religious sites worldwide.
Israeli forces captured East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank, in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital.
Israel considers all of Jerusalem its capital, a claim that is not recognised internationally.