Muslim Temple Mount Authority Refuses to Reopen Site Due to Israeli Metal Detectors

Israeli police allow access to the site again after shuttering it in the wake of a deadly shooting, but the Waqf warns visitors to stay away

Metal detectors installed at the Temple Mount, July 16, 2017.
Metal detectors installed at the Temple Mount, July 16, 2017. Emil Salman

Israeli police sought to reopen the Temple Mount on Sunday afternoon but the Waqf, the Muslim authority that administers the site, refused to unlock the gates in protest of the metal detectors installed there.

Israel shuttered the Mount in the wake of a deadly shooting there on Friday

Metal detectors have been installed at the two gates on Sunday morning. 

Worshipers at the entrance to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem's Old City, July 16, 2017.
Emil Salman

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The Waqf sees the new security measure as a violation of the status quo on the mount, source in the Muslim authority told Haaretz. "The police won't be able to find someone to accept the keys," the sources said. "The Waqf officials aren't coming."

 Al-Aqsa compound director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani asked visitors to stay out of the site as long as the metal detectors are in place. 

According to the police, at first only two of the Mount's nine gates are to be opened to Muslim visitors, and only Palestinian residents of Jerusalem would be allowed to enter. Despite earlier plans, the police said Jews will not be allowed on the Mount on Sunday.

The police have conducted extensive searches on the Temple Mount over the past two days, entering all the mosques, offices and other buildings in the complex. At first, the police wanted to break down the doors to the buildings but in the end they agreed to requests from the Waqf to have representatives unlock the buildings for them. 

The police officers were careful to remove their shoes before entering the mosques, police Maj. Gen. Yoram Halevy, the commander of the Jerusalem District, told Army Radio on Sunday morning.

“Dozens of knives, slingshots, batons, spikes, inciting material, unexploded ordnance, binoculars and dummy plastic weapons" were found at the site, said Halevy. No firearms or ammunition were found, he added.

Jerusalem city workers entered the Temple Mount at the police’s request and carried out a thorough cleaning, despite the protests of the Waqf officials that this too was a violation of the status quo at the holy site. The cleanup operation was also carried out in the streets leading to the Temple mount.

The Old City remained closed on Sunday too, and only tourists, along with Jews and Palestinians who live in the Old City, were allowed in. Most of the stores in the Muslim Quarter were closed, as were many of the stores in the main business district of East Jerusalem. The roads around the Old City were also closed to traffic, and traffic at the central bus station near the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem was disrupted somewhat.

The decision to take the exceptional step of closing off the Old City was made because of “the dramatic terrorist attack in a dramatic location, which has not happened for decades,” said Halevy.