Jerusalem's mufti Mohammed Hussein announced Thursday that the situation at the Temple Mount compound has been restored to what it was prior to July 14's attack, and that prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque are to resume.
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met the mufti in Ramallah on Thursday morning and welcomed the decision, calling it a victory for Palestinians, particularly those in Jerusalem. "All stood as one, didn't blink, didn't hesitate and didn't tire," he said.
His announcement follows the overnight removal of all remaining security measures from the entrances to the Temple Mount, including infrastructure for "smart" camera technology that was to replace the metal detectors that were removed on Tuesday, in in accordance with the demands of the site's religious authority, the Waqf.
Meanwhile, security forces are still bracing for possible clashes on Friday when a large number of worshipers is expected at the site for prayers. Following the Waqf's announcement, the IDF is to hold meetings to assess the situation in preparation for Friday. The IDF's Central Command has already made preparations for a "day of rage" on Friday in the West Bank and is on increased alert.
The Waqf has called for worshippers to gather for afternoon prayers at the gates of the compound and to enter together while shouting "Allah Akhbar." According to the decision by the heads of the Waqf, all the mosques in Jerusalem will be closed on Friday and all worshippers should come en masse to Al-Aqsa.
After the decision was made on Thursday dozens of people gathered near the entrance to the Temple Mount close to the Lions Gates to hold a "victory party," playing loud music and dancing. So far, they have not entered the Temple Mount compound. One of the celebrators said they expect to hold a mass prayer service in the afternoon, and only afterwards people will re-enter the Temple Mount.
According to Israel's security forces, the situation at the Temple Mount has now returned to normal in light of the fact that there is now no effective inspection at any of the Muslim entrance gates to the Temple Mount.
On Wednesday, Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered security checks only to be conducted using hand-held metal detector wands. Security forces noted that it was impossible to search tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people properly using only such devices at the entrances to the Temple Mount, and that these measures were already in place before the recent terror attack.
The Waqf administration is due to meet on Thursday morning in order to discuss the developments, and will decide whether or not prayers would resume inside the mosque. According to Jerusalem Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, prayers would continue outside the mosque until after the discussion.
Overnight, Palestinian media broadcasted images of thousands of Palestinians celebrating the removal of roadblocks that had been installed in Jerusalem in response to the widespread protests that erupted following the new Temple Mount security measures.
Meanwhile, the three Umm al-Fahm residents who carried out the Temple Mount attack which killed two Druze Border Police were buried on Thursday morning, drawing thousands of participants. Some of the participants waved Palestinian flags and praised the attackers as martyrs.
The three young men, Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed Jabareen (29), Mohammed Hamed Abd Al-Latif Jabareen (19) and Mohammed Ahmed Mafdal Jabareen (19), were buried alongside each other. The bodies were handed over to the families after the police, local representatives and the families had been in negotiation on the number of people that would be allowed to participate in the funeral procession.
The bodies were handed over despite no agreement having been reached. The funerals were held inside the city and the prayers in a mosque near the cemetery, so as the event was not close to Route 65, the main road through the Wadi Ara area. The police had feared a disruption to traffic – and worse – on one of Israel's major roads.
Friday clashes still on the cards, despite removal of measures
Palestinian organizations Hamas and Fatah had called for Palestinians to take to the streets on Friday earlier on in the week.
At a Palestinian Authority meeting on Tuesday evening, leaders reached a decision to organize a rally after Friday prayers followed by protests at central squares and points of friction with the Israeli army.
According to the officials, the plan is to present the march as part of a popular struggle against the IDF forces. There will be no masked gunmen or signs of an armed struggle, the officials said.
Though all Palestinian factions issued the call to protest, Fatah is the primary advocate of the planned West Bank rallies.