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Concern at tensions in Jerusalem

28 July 2017

SEAN HAWKEY

Occupied: Mohammed Sbeah’s house in Beit Hanina, a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, was demolished on 4 July. Mr Sbeah said that police and local-government officers arrived and tore down the house without taking him to court first, depriving him of recourse to a judge. The local community has helped him clear the debris, and he and his family are now living in his mother-in-law’s house

Occupied: Mohammed Sbeah’s house in Beit Hanina, a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, was demolished on 4 July. Mr Sbeah said that pol...

THE Israeli government has dismantled metal detectors surrounding the Temple Mount, the highly contested religious site in the Israeli-occupied Old City of Jerusalem, after several people were killed in mass protests over recently increased security measures.

Tensions first escalated two weeks ago, when three Arab-Israeli gunmen opened fire on Israeli police officers at one of the gates to the compound, killing two of them, and wounding a third, before the attackers were shot dead.

Israeli forces responded by installing metal detectors, which Palestinian and Islamic leaders said undermined the fragile set of arrangements agreed after Israel took control of the Old City during the Six-day War, in 1967.

Men under the age of 50 were also banned from entering the area, as part of tightened security measures, after Palestinian Muslim leaders urged worshippers to gather in the streets for Friday prayers rather than walk through the metal detectors, in protest.

Three Palestinians and three Israelis were reportedly killed in separate incidents, last Friday, and more than 200 people were injured during further protests over the weekend. This included two men who were shot dead by an Israeli diplomatic security guard at the embassy in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday night.

The guard opened fire after he was stabbed by one of the men, leading to a stand-off between Jordanian authorities, who sought to question the guard, and the Israeli authorities, who said that the guard had diplomatic immunity.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, agreed on Monday that the guard and other Israeli diplomats be returned to Israel, and the metal detectors be replaced by security cameras.

Pope Francis was among religious leaders to call for peace in the Holy Land during the escalating violence. Speaking to crowds in St Peter’s Square, in Rome, on Sunday, he expressed “a heartfelt appeal for moderation and dialogue” in the region, and prayed for the alleviation of the “grave tensions and violence” that have spread there over the past week.

The World Council of Churches called for all barriers to worship to be removed. Its general secretary, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said on Monday: “We pray and plead for both sides in this precarious situation to try to talk with one another, and find a solution for unfettered access to the places of worship for all believers in the city and region that can allow peace to prevail.”

It came after the patriarchs of 13 Christian Churches in Jerusalem, including the Greek, Syrian, Coptic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches, expressed concern over the violence, and grief at the loss of life, last week (News, 21 July).

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