Israel Police Install Security Cameras at Temple Mount Entrance Amid Crisis

Security officials stress the cameras at Lions' Gate complement metal detectors, not replace them, ahead of cabinet meeting on developing crisis

A newly installed security camera at Lion's Gate, one of the entrances to the Temple Mount, East Jerusalem, July 23, 2017.
Emil Salman

Israeli security forces installed security cameras at the entrance of the Lions' Gate, adjacent to the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem early on Sunday morning.

Security officials stressed that the cameras are intended to complement metal detectors recently installed at the holy site – not to replace them. Israel’s cabinet is set to discuss the developing crisis with the Palestinians over the Temple Mount on Sunday night.

Temple Mount crisis: Fears of political rivals led Netanyahu to make a grave error ■ Jerusalem unifies the Muslims through struggle ■ Jordan, Egypt look to help Israel out of Temple Mount bind ■ Between political and legal fears, any sign of leadership in Israel is absent ■ To quell protests, Israel divides and conquers in Jerusalem

Also on Sunday, Israel Police restricted the movement of journalists around Lions' Gate. Journalists were banned from the area open to the public, next to the entrance, including the spots in which new security cameras were installed.

The police asserted that permitting journalists into the area caused a tumult and a lack of security. The journalists were ordered to move to Mota Gur Way, a few hundred meters from the Old City Walls, and about 500 meters from the Temple Mount entrance. Civilians who are not journalists have full access to this area.

Heads of the Waqf, the Muslim authority in charge of Temple Mount custodianship, in Jerusalem and senior religious leaders issued a statement on Sunday morning. "We oppose all means Israel implements at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque including metal detectors," they declared. "We call on King Abdullah, Mahmoud Abbas and all leaders of Arab and Islamic states to take responsibility and use all means of pressure at their disposal to stop Israel's aggressive behavior against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Israeli army's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, noted the volatility of the situation on Sunday. Speaking to draftees at the army induction center, Eisenkot said that Friday’s deadly attack, which was halted by a neighboring off-duty soldier, “teaches something about the threats we are dealing with.”

Regarding the situation in Gaza, Eisenkot said that rocket fire directed at Israel on Saturday “attests to the explosiveness of this period, both from Gaza and from the West Bank.”

“Should war break out, our task is to win decisively, to achieve clear results and to push back the next war many years back,” Eisenkot said. “The security situation is quiet, but it is very complex and volatile, and things can develop very quickly,” he added, referring to Gaza.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces continued throughout the weekend. Four Palestinians were killed on Friday, two of them in East Jerusalem and a third in nearby Abu Dis. The Palestinian Health Ministry announced on Saturday that a 23-year-old Palestinian had died of gunshot wounds to his chest, which he suffered during clashes with Israeli forces in the town of Al-Eizariya, north of Abu Dis. The Red Crescent Society reported that 391 Palestinians have been injured in demonstrations and clashes. Israel Police arrested 29 people in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Just hours after the height of clashes on Friday, a terrorist infiltrated the West Bank settlement of Halamish and murdered three family members: Yosef Salomon, 70, and his adult children, Chaya, a 46-year-old teacher, and Elad, 36. Tova Salomon, 68, Yosef’s wife and the mother of Elad and Chaya, was wounded in the attack and was evacuated to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

The terrorist, 20-year-old Omar al-Abed of the nearby West Bank village of Khobar, is believed to have acted alone. He jumped over the settlement’s fence and entered the home while the family was enjoying a festive Shabbat dinner. One of the women in the home hid the children in one of the rooms, locked the door and called for help. An off-duty soldier staying next door shot the terrorist through one of the windows, seriously wounding him.

An army investigation found that al-Abed approached the settlement from his home town of Khobar, about two-and-a-half kilometers away. He posted a message on Facebook hinting at his plan about an hour and 40 minutes before the attack. It took a few minutes for him to reach the house from the perimeter fence. Another 15 minutes passed before the off-duty soldier who shot him arrived. The army will investigate how the warning from the terrorist touching the fence only reached the civilian situation room and not the army, such that its forces only arrived after reports of the attack spread. The army raised the terrorist’s home in Khobar, arrested his brother and imposed a curfew on the town. 

The army has beefed up its forces in the West Bank with a number of regular battalions. It has likewise conduct arrests across the West Bank and ramped up monitoring of Palestinians using social networks in wake of multiple threats and warnings of additional attacks.

A senior security official told Haaretz: “Our strategic goal is to prevent a third intifada. If an alternative way of ensuring that weapons won’t be smuggled into Temple Mount that will be less prominent than metal detectors at the gates, we will consider it. Nothing is holy.”

The police installed the metal detectors at the entrance of Temple Mount after the shooting attack on July 14, in which two Border Police officers were murdered and another was moderately wounded. The three terrorists, all residents of Umm al-Fahm, were shot to death. The police then ordered Temple Mount closed to the public and announced the cancellation of Friday prayers, the first such cancellation in years.