Muslims refuse to enter Al-Aqsa after new Israel restrictions

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An Israeli police officer checks the identity of a Palestinian man on Sunday next to newly installed metal detectors at an entrance to the Harm Al-Sharif compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque. — Reuters

Occupied Jerusalem — Israel reopened Al-Aqsa Mosque compund Sunday, but Muslim worshipers were refusing to enter due to new security measures including metal detectors and cameras.

Crowds chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) as a number of initial visitors entered occupied Jerusalem’s Haram Al-Sharif compound.

A call to prayer rang out from Al-Aqsa, but Muslim worshipers held midday prayers outside the site in protest at the new security measures.

“We reject the changes imposed by the Israeli government,” Sheikh Omar Kiswani, Al-Aqsa director, told reporters outside.

“We will not enter through these metal detectors.”

Some women wailed and cried while telling people not to enter.

Israel took the highly unusual decision of closing the Al-Aqsa mosque compound for Friday prayers, triggering anger from Muslims and Jordan, the holy site’s custodian. The site remained closed on Saturday, while parts of Jerusalem’s Old City were also under lockdown.

Israeli authorities said the closure was necessary to carry out security checks. Police said Sunday that so far two gates leading to the holy site had been opened, equipped with metal detectors, adding that more than 200 people had entered.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the security measures late Saturday before departing for a trip to Paris.

“This evening I held a discussion with the top security leadership and I instructed that metal detectors be placed at the entrance gates,” he said.

“We will also install security cameras on poles outside the Temple Mount but which give almost complete control over what goes on there.”

Proposals to change security measures at the compound have sparked controversy in the past.

A plan developed in 2015 between Israel and Jordan to install cameras at the site itself fell apart amid disagreement over how they would be operated. — AFP


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