Israeli authorities gradually reopened the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday following a two-day closure, as religious officials condemned new security measures put in place.
The ultra-sensitive compound was closed on Friday after three Palestinian citizens of Israel shot two Israeli officers dead in the Old City before fleeing to the al-Aqsa compound where they were killed by Israeli police.
Palestinian worshippers on Sunday refused to enter the holy site for midday prayers after metal detectors and cameras were added to the compound’s gates.
Dozens of worshippers gathered to pray at an entrance to the compound next to the Lions’ Gate entry to the Old City.
“We reject the changes imposed by the Israeli government,” Sheikh Omar Kiswani, the director of al-Aqsa Mosque, told reporters outside.
“We will not enter through these metal detectors.”
Some women wailed and cried, calling on worshippers not to enter.
Earlier in the day, Kiswani told Voice of Palestine radio station the additional security measures were part of a “dangerous and unprecedented move” by Israeli authorities “to impose control over al-Aqsa Mosque”.
Israel’s highly unusual decision of closing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound for Friday prayers triggered anger from Palestinians and authorities in Jordan, the holy site’s custodian.
The Jordanian goverment released a statement on Friday demanding Israel immediately open the mosque and warning against steps that could “change the historic status quo in Jerusalem and the mosque”.
Proposals to change security measures at the compound have sparked controversy in the past. Palestinians have long feared what they see as Israeli moves to change the status quo at the holy site.
Netanyahu announced the additional security measures on Saturday, saying they gave Israel “almost complete control over what goes on” in the compound.
The site remained closed on Saturday, while parts of Jerusalem’s Old City were also under lockdown.
Israeli authorities said the closure was necessary to carry out security checks.
Police said on Sunday that so far two gates leading to the holy site had been opened, equipped with metal detectors and cameras, adding that more than 200 people had entered.
The mosque compound is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif while Jews call it Temple Mount.
Source: News agencies