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Israel to remove metal detectors around al-Aqsa but leave cameras

Israel will replace the metal detectors with 'advanced technologies' and other security measures, cabinet says
Israeli security forces remove metal detectors in Jerusalem's Old City, 25 July (Reuters)

Israel’s government has decided to remove metal detectors at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, which have caused Palestinian protests, replacing them with other security measures.

Israel's security cabinet accepted "the recommendation of all the security bodies to change the inspection with metal detectors to a security inspection based on advanced technologies and other means," a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

The cabinet voted to remove the metal detector gates after a second meeting that lasted several hours.

However, the director of Al-Aqsa, Najeh Bakirat, said that keeping the cameras does not satisfy Palestinian demands.

Details of the advanced technologies the cabinet spoke of were not immediately clear, though cameras were installed at entrances to the site earlier this week.

"This movement is a movement of the street," said Sheikh Raed Dana of the Islamic Waqf organisation, which administers the holy compound.

"We as the Waqf listen to the street. The street says yes and we say yes; if the street says no to the measures, we will say no."

Israel installed metal detectors at entry points to Al-Aqsa mosque after two police guards were shot dead on 14 July. Since then, Israeli forces and a settler have killed three Palestinian protestors, and three Israeli settlers in the West Bank were killed by a Palestinian.

Installation of the metal detectors was considered by Palestinians as a declaration of sovereignty by Israel over Islam’s third holiest site. They have refused to enter through the gates, praying in the streets instead as a form of protest.

International calls to resolve the crisis intensified on Monday, as UN envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov warned of "potential catastrophic costs well beyond the walls of the Old City" if the issue is not solved.

Removing the metal detectors came hours after an Israeli embassy guard, who was involved in a shooting that claimed the lives of two Jordanians in Amman, returned to Israel.

The guard had fatally shot a Jordanian who attacked him with a screwdriver at the embassy compound in Amman on Sunday, while a second Jordanian was accidentally killed, officials and a security source said.

Jordan wanted to bring the guard in for questioning, but Israel said he had diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention.

The Israeli government denied that Jordan had linked the guard's return with the removal of the metal detectors at Al-Aqsa.

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