Israel to Reopen Temple Mount Under Heightened Security on Sunday

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Israeli border police officers stop people from entering the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, July 15, 2017.
Israeli border police officers stop people from entering the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, July 15, 2017.Credit: Mahmoud Illean/AP

Israel will reopen the Temple Mount on Sunday after shutting it for two days in the wake of a deadly shooting attack.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau said in a statement on Saturday evening that the holy site will be gradually reopened to Muslim worshippers as well as visitors starting on Sunday afternoon. Cameras and metal detectors are to be installed around the Mount, and additional security measures are expected.  

>>White House condemns Temple Mount attack, backs Israeli decision to close the holy site>>

The decision was taken after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a telephone situation assessment with defense officials.  

Earlier Saturday, Hamas called on Palestinians to attack Israeli forces in Jerusalem after the Mount was shuttered. Hamas described the closure of the site in a statement as a "religious war" and Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called on the Palestinian "uprising" to target the Israeli army and West Bank settlers.

Barhoum said that closing the Al-Aqsa Mosque "is a new crime against the holy site. These kinds of decisions should be fought at any price."

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. Hamas has staged a rally celebrating the attack.

The site is revered by both Muslims and Jews. Muslim worshippers as well as employees of the Waqf, the Muslim authority that administers the site, were barred from entering the site for a second day on Saturday. The rest of the Old City was also shuttered to Palestinians who don't reside there, while Israelis and tourists were allowed to enter undisturbed. 

Large police forces continued to search the Temple Mount on Saturday. According to Palestinian sources, police have entered all the buildings within the complex, including mosques, the Sharia court, and the Waqf archive. In some sites the police sought to break down doors, but ultimately allowed a representative of the Waqf to unlock them to prevent damage.

The Waqf released a statement condemning the closure and the searches conducted there by Israeli police after the attack. The statement described the Israeli conduct as a "crime of the Israeli occupation" and a violation of the Muslims' freedom of worship. 

Israeli Arab leaders and religious authorities released a statement condemning the police activity and calling for the immediate reopening of the mosques on the Mount. 

Knesset Member Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), a resident of Umm al-Fahm the city where the three assailants lived, said Saturday that Israeli Arabs oppose all violence and use of weapons in their political struggle. "We call on Arab youths to preserve the popular nature of our struggle, thus avoiding causing harm to our way," he said.

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