After Cabinet Decision, Israel Begins Removing Metal Detectors From Temple Mount

Metal detectors 'will be replaced by advanced technological means' ■ Extra security forces to be deployed throughout Old City ■ Cabinet emphasizes: Israel intends to maintain status quo

Israeli security forces stand next to heavy machinery as metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount are removed, Jerusalem, Israel, July 25, 2017.
Israeli security forces stand next to heavy machinery as metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount are removed, Jerusalem, Israel, July 25, 2017. AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

Israel's security cabinet decided during a meeting on Monday night to remove the metal detectors installed at the entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The metal detectors have aroused a wave of protests among Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank, which have echoed across the Arab world. Security forces were already seen removing at least some of the metal detectors late on Monday night. 

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A senior Israeli official who attended the cabinet meeting, which lasted around four hours, noted that the metal detectors "will be replaced by advanced technological means" that will enable "smart inspection" throughout Jerusalem's Old City to ensure the security of visitors to the Temple Mount compound.

"The cabinet accepts the recommendation of security officials to replace the metal detectors with security inspection based on advanced technologies – smart inspection – and other means to ensure the security of visitors and worshipers in the Old City of Jerusalem," the cabinet said in a statement.

The Temple Mount crisis, explained

The senior official also noted that in addition to the metal detectors, some of the cameras that have been installed at the holy site in the past few days will be removed, too. 

He said that the police will formulate a plan to install the new security system throughout the Old City to solve security needs at the compound. According to him, the security cabinet has allocated 100 million shekels to the Israel Police and the Ministry of Public Security to prepare for and eventually implement the new system.

Israel Police and Border Police will deploy additional forces throughout the Old City to ensure the security of visitors to the compound, the official said, adding that the cabinet emphasized that Israel intends to maintain the status quo at the holy site.

The metal detectors were installed at the Temple Mount after three Israeli Arabs carried out an attack at the compound, shooting dead two border policemen. Israeli police responded by closing down the compound and canceling prayers that day. Twenty-four hours later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the metal detectors installed at the site as a security measure to prevent similar attacks.

As an act of civil protest, Palestinian worshippers refused to step through the metal detectors, and over the course of the following week, held their prayers outside the Temple Mount compound instead. The government resisted the pressure and clashes erupted between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in which four Palestinians were killed. On Friday evening, three members of an Israeli Jewish family were stabbed to death in the West Bank settlement of Halamish by a Palestinian assailant from a nearby village.

The Israeli government was faced with an additional crisis on Sunday when an Israeli Embassy guard in Jordan was barred from leaving the country after shooting dead a Jordanian teen who tried to stab him. The crisis lasted for more than 24 hours before being solved on Monday evening. According to the Prime Minister's Office, all Israeli diplomats from the embassy, including the security guard, arrived in Israel via Allenby Crossing "in good health."

The security guard's release and the embassy staff's evacuation was made possible after a phone call between Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah. During their conversation, the king also urged Netanyahu to solve the crisis surrounding the Temple Mount as quickly as possible, specifically calling on Netanyahu to remove the metal detectors as soon as possible.

"The king stressed that a quick solution should be found and to dismantle what caused the ongoing Temple Mount crisis, restoring the situation that existed before the crisis' outbreak and to fully reopen the Al-Aqsa Mosque," according to a statement from the Jordanian royal family.

Judy Maltz contributed to this report.