Israel has installed new security cameras at the entrance to a contested Jerusalem holy site, as officials began indicating it was considering “alternatives” to the metal detectors at the shrine that set off a weekend of violence and raised tensions in the region.
Speaking from occupied East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said Palestinians had feared that Israel would place CCTV cameras at the entrances to the al-Aqsa compound.
“The Palestinians are very angry about this because they consider this an additional security measure,” he said. “They’ve always maintained that the metal detectors may be the first move in the Israelis taking over the compound.”
Israel introduced the new security measures last week after Palestinian gunmen opened fire from the shrine, killing two Israeli policemen. It said they were a necessary measure to prevent more attacks and were deployed routinely at holy sites around the world.
But Palestinians alleged Israel was trying to expand its control at the Muslim-administered site and have launched mass prayer protests.
Hussein Da’na, a 76-year-old Palestinian, told Al Jazeera that he “rejects” the cameras because they disadvantage Palestinians further.
“These cameras are made to identify the faces of people who are barred from entering al-Aqsa Mosque,” Da’na said.
“We pray each morning here and the police assaults us. I intend to keep praying here until Israel removes all what is new,” he added, referring to the security measures.
The cameras were installed just outside Lions’ Gate. Israeli police barred journalists from going through the gate.
Major General Yoav Mordechai, who heads the Israeli defense body for Palestinian civilian affairs, said Israel was open to alternatives to lower the tensions.
“The only thing we want is to ensure no one can enter with weapons again and carry out another attack,” he said. “We’re willing to examine alternatives to the metal detectors as long as the solution of alternative ensures the prevention of the next attack.”
Palestinian leader freezes contact with Israel
However, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, told the Voice of Palestine he demands a complete return to procedures that were in place before the initial attack at the shrine, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
In a statement on Sunday, the Islamic institutions in Jerusalem, of which he is a part, said they “affirm the categorical rejection of the electronic gates and all the measures of occupation”.
A top adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said they are holding a series of consultations with various countries to try and lower tensions in Jerusalem.
Abbas’s diplomatic adviser, Majdi Khaldi, said the Palestinians are coordinating with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and others.
On Friday, Abbas announced he would “freeze” ties with Israel “on all levels” until the new security measures Israel imposed at the site after the deadly shooting there were removed.
He did not say whether this means halting security coordination, which would have far-reaching repercussions and sharply raise tensions with Israel.
On Friday, several thousand Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, protested against the security measures during noon prayers. Israel responded with firing rubber and live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades.
Three Palestinians were killed and more than 400 were injured, the Red Crescent said.
Late on Friday evening, a 20-year-old Palestinian identified as Omar al-Abed jumped over the fence of the Halamish settlement and entered a home, and stabbed four members of a family, killing three of them.
Abed said in a pre-attack Facebook post that he expected to be killed in the assault and his father said he was motivated by the violence at the Jerusalem shrine.
The army said soldiers searched the house and measured it in preparation for demolition. Anticipating this, local residents said the family emptied its home of valuables.
Later, the Israeli army sealed off entrances to Abed’s village of Kobar.
Israel placed its forces on high alert after the attack in the West Bank. The Israeli military said it carried out a wave of overnight arrests of 29 Palestinians, including nine members of the Hamas group.
Additional reporting by Ibrahim Husseini
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies