Israeli Police Remove Cameras Installed by Muslim Officials at Temple Mount

Move comes days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that cameras would be installed to help defuse tension at the site.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Palestinian men take part in Friday prayers on the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem, Oct 23, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Muslim religious officials say that surveillance cameras they installed Monday morning at Jerusalem's Temple Mount were dismantled by the Israel Police.

The cameras were removed two days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced at a press conference in Amman that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to install 24-hour surveillance cameras on the Temple Mount in an effort to defuse tensions. Jordanian officials initially requested the cameras at the site in order to ensure that Israel does not make any changes to the status quo there, and to ensure that there is no attempt to damage the Al-Aqsa Mosque at the site. “It will provide transparency and will deter people from violating the holiness of the site,” said Kerry.

But according to the Muslim religious trust, known as the Waqf, the Israel Police intervened and dismantled cameras that had been installed. “We severely condemn the police’s behavior and Israel’s intervention in administration matters concerning the Waqf and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” said Sheikh Azzam el-Khatib, director of the Jerusalem Waqf, which oversees the city's Muslim holy sites. “This proves that Israel wants to install cameras that will serve its interests, and not cameras that will actually document what happens in the mosque complex.”

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement in response: “The full arrangements regarding placing of cameras throughout the Temple Mount, agreed upon by Israel, Jordan and the United States, are meant to be coordinated by professionals. During a press conference with Jordan’s foreign minister on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said ‘I expect that Jordanian and Israeli technicians will meet regarding implementing the idea.’” The PMO also stated that “the cameras will be installed according to arrangements that will be agreed upon by the various sides. Israel has already agreed to begin the process as soon as possible.”

The Israel Police also issued a statement in response: “Any alteration of the status quo on the Temple Mount will not be allowed. Any diplomatic agreements will be implemented, with full coordination with all of the relevant officials.”

The Temple Mount, where the two ancient temples are believed to have stood, is considered Judaism's holiest site. The compound, known by Moslems as The Noble Sanctuary, houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock mosque, making it the third holiest site in Islam. Much of the recent unrest in Jerusalem was sparked by Palestinian claims that Israel was trying to alter the status quo at the site — a charge Israel denies.