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Palestinians celebrate as barriers removed from Jerusalem holy site

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By Alasdair Sandford
Palestinians celebrate as barriers removed from Jerusalem holy site

The removal of Israeli security installations from the entrance to a contested holy site in Jerusalem brought celebrations from hundreds of Palestinians outside the Old City’s Lions Gate.

Hotly disputed metal detectors had already been taken away on Tuesday. Late on Wednesday night, as railings and scaffolding – where security cameras had previously been mounted – were carried off on lorries, they chanted and clapped in joy. There were cries of “God is Great” and fireworks were set off.

The scenes follow a tense standoff between Israel and Palestinians who have been demanding the removal of all security measures – introduced after two policemen were shot dead at the site, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Palestinians as the al-Aqsa Mosque or Noble Sanctuary.

Despite the celebrations – one Palestinian man was quoted describing a “victory” – some accounts cast doubt on the event’s significance. The Times of Israel said in its report that “relatively minor security installations, including fairly flimsy metal railings”, had been removed.

Muslim leaders said they would decide later on whether worshippers could return to the shrine for prayers. They had demanded that all new security measures at entrances to the compound – including cameras – be removed, giving a list of demands to Israeli police.

Earlier the rival Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas called for more mass protests on Friday. The Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas has frozen ties with Israel over events in Jerusalem.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a statement on Wednesday night urging all leaders to “refrain from provocative action and rhetoric”, calling on Israel “to demonstrate restraint”.

There have been fears of more unrest after deadly clashes last weekend, when three Palestinians died in clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and three Israelis were stabbed to death by a Palestinian man at their home in a settlement near Ramallah.