Palestinian leaders reject new Israeli measures at Jerusalem holy site

Israel’s removal of metal detectors from Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site has failed to appease Palestinians.

Thousands prayed outside on Tuesday night, heeding a call not to enter in protest at Israel’s actions.

Earlier Israel said it had decided to replace the detectors with what it calls “smart checking devices” at the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and to Muslims as the al-Aqsa mosque.

Palestinian religious and political leaders dismissed the changes.

“All new Israeli measures put in place since (July 14) until today must be removed so things can go back to normal in Jerusalem and we can resume our work regarding bilateral relations,” the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday, confirming that the freeze in relations with Israel would continue.

The UN’s Middle East envoy has called for tensions to be eased ahead of Friday prayers, saying they risk spreading.

Israel’s response to the Palestinian leadership was furious.

“Israel’s top priority is to maintain the safety and security of all Temple Mount worshippers and visitors. The Palestinians top priority is to ignite violence…(Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas not only has the audacity to claim he seeks peace but actively funds, promotes and glorifies terror,” said Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

Amid sporadic clashes, both sides are under international pressure to calm the row. But some say various factions have an interest in stoking tensions further.

The dispute is about far more than security equipment imposed in the wake of the killing of two Israeli policemen by Arab-Israeli gunmen; the site is highly symbolic for both sides. Palestinians see an attempt by Israel to exert further control. Israel says it needs to secure Judaism’s most holy site.
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