- The move is geared towards providing better security for worshipers and visitors
Israel is moving to further secure Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, with a special police unit of two hundred officers who will be equipped with the best and latest technologies.
“In two years, Jerusalem will become not only the holiest city in the world but also the safest,” Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan asserted. “With the most advanced technology, the city will become a model for others across the globe.”
The Media Line repeatedly attempted to reach Erdan’s Office but was unable to obtain a statement on the matter.
The Temple Mount is the location of the two former biblical Jewish Temples, whereas today the al-Aqsa mosque—Islam’s third holiest site—resides atop it.
The new decision comes two months after three Muslim men from the northern Arab-Israeli city of Umm el-Fahm shot dead two Israeli police officers at the compound. In response, Israel installed metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount, but Islamic authorities in the region slammed the decision, claiming Jerusalem was violating the so-called religious status quo that has long defined relations between the three monotheistic religions in Jerusalem.
After widespread popular outrage and rioting, Israel decided to remove the security devices.
Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs, Mahmoud Habash, denounced the prospective force, arguing that Israel has no right to introduce the unit. “Any procedures they take are illegitimate and illegal,” he contended to The Media Line. “We will not accept any Israeli involvement. Our next steps will be organized with Jordan [which acts as the custodian of Muslim shrines in Jerusalem].”
Speaking to The Media Line, Omar Al-Kiswani, President of the al-Aqsa, likewise asserted that Israel is escalating the situation by waging a campaign against the mosque. “They are establishing a war against Muslims around the world by reinforcing their occupying policies,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous matter as they are transforming the conflict from a political one into a religious one.”
Al-Kiswani condemned Israel for allegedly not abiding by international agreements and laws and placed the responsibility for any future confrontations squarely on the shoulders of the Israeli government. He also said that for over two months, the Israeli police prevented guards employed by the Waqf—the Muslim body which administers the mosque—from operating at the holy site.
“They replaced more than eighty guards hired by Jordan and instead they want to create a special [Israeli] unit? They are trying to change the historical situation of al-Aqsa,” he affirmed.
Hanadi Halawani, a teacher at al-Aqsa, said the new initiative was entirely predictable. “They are just adding more pressure on the Muslim worshipers,” she told The Media Line. Halawani was arrested last month after a picture of standing next to a sign reading “let’s light the candle of our steadfastness” emerged on social media. She was thereafter banned from entering Jerusalem’s Old City, including al-Aqsa, for one month and is also not permitted to leave Israel or enter the West Bank for half a year.
“I used to have four police officers monitoring me while entering al-Aqsa,” she explained. “Now the Israelis are trying to further complicate the ability of Muslims to go to al-Aqsa, while facilitating a way for settlers to be there.”