Israel began implementing new security measures, including checkpoints and metal detectors, in the Old City on Sunday, two days after three gunmen killed two police officers at the entrance to one of Islam’s holiest sites.
The three perpetrators, Palestinian Muslims with Israeli citizenship, were caught on Israeli police cameras exiting the sacred Al-Aqsa mosque compound, shooting the two officers before darting back inside the esplanade.
The assailants, all from the Arab-Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm, were shot dead at the site by security forces.
Immediately following the incident on Friday morning, Israel closed the mosque and prevented worshipers from entering the compound and Old City for the first time since 1969.
The move was condemned by many in the Muslim world, who view the ramped-up security as an attempt by Israel to change the precious status quo at the site, which is often a flash point of violence between the sides.
Israeli police said the measures were a necessary secure the site and ensure there were no other weapons present. Several members of the Wakf, the Islamic trust that administers the site, were detained by police, suspected of aiding the three attackers or for inciting violence against Israel, local media reported.
In an interview on Israel Army Radio on Sunday, Maj. Gen. Yoram Halevy, the Jerusalem District police commander, said dozens of knives, slingshots, batons, spikes and unexploded ordinances were found during the police sweep.
He also said that Jerusalem municipal workers had entered the mosque on Saturday to clean up after the police.
In the aftermath of the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held a rare phone call, with Netanyahu imploring that there would be no change to the current arrangements at the complex and Abbas, in a rare move, condemned the violence and called on Netanyahu to reopen the site.
After holding a security briefing Saturday night, Netanyahu agreed to do so, ordering the mosque to reopen on Sunday. However, by early afternoon, only Muslim residents of the city were being allowed to enter, and all worshipers had to pass through newly installed metal detectors.
The Jerusalem Mufti and other Waqf officials have refused to cooperate with the new security regulations established by the police on Temple Mount, since they claim it is a violation of the status quo at the site and now the prayers are being made outside of the mosques of the Temple Mount.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Ruth Eglash