Temple Mount Reopens to Jewish Visitors After Three-day Closure

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Security forces guard one of the entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, July 16, 2017.
Security forces guard one of the entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, July 16, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Temple Mount was reopened to Jewish visitors on Monday morning after being shut for three days in the wake of a deadly shooting attack.

Israeli police had planned to reopen the Mount on Sunday, but the Waqf, the Muslim authority that administers the holy site, refused to unlock the gates in protest of metal detectors Israeli forces installed there on Sunday morning after the attack.

While the Mount is now open to both Jewish and Muslim visitors, many of the latter are still boycotting the site in protest of the metal detectors. Jewish visitors on the Mount told Haaretz that there are no Waqf guards present at the site. 

The Joint Committee of Temple Organizations commented that for the first time since the Six Day War, Jews are able to go freely to the site, without being hassled by the Waqf. The movement said it applauded the police for "amending the historic wrong" on the Temple Mount and praised police commander Yoram Halevy for his determination and courage.  

The Israeli police and army are worried about more violence after the dissemination of photographs showing Jews wandering around the Temple Mount without being surrounded by guards of the Waqf, as would normally be the case. From the perspective of the Palestinians, the pictures show the "conspiracy" of Israeli ambitions to Judaize the Temple Mount, and change the status quo at the time, coming true. As the pictures are shared online, the authorities are worried that a new round of violence could ensue.

Israel made the rare move to bar access to the Mount after three Israeli Arab assailants opened fire there Friday, killing two Israeli police officers before being shot dead. 

On Sunday, two of the nine gates to the Mount were opened and only Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were allowed to enter the compound. Disturbances erupted outside the compound after a group of Palestinians attempted to enter the compound with a casket containing a body. Israeli security forces prevented them from entering.

The Waqf sees the new security measure as a violation of the status quo on the Mount, sources in the Muslim authority told Haaretz. Al-Aqsa compound director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani had asked visitors to stay out of the site as long as the metal detectors are in place.

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