Israel reopens Jerusalem holy site after deadly assault

Palestinian sheikhs refused to enter the sacred site because of new security measures.
Palestinian sheikhs refused to enter the sacred site because of new security measures.

JERUSALEM — Hundreds of Muslim worshipers visited a Jerusalem holy site Sunday after Israel reopened the compound after a rare closure in response to a deadly shooting last week that raised concerns about wider unrest.

For the first time in decades, Israel closed the site — known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount — on Friday after three Arab citizens of Israel opened fire from the sacred site with automatic weapons, killing two police officers. The three were later shot to death inside the compound.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that after consultations with security officials, the government decided to reopen the site Sunday afternoon with increased security measures that included metal detectors at the gates and additional security cameras.


At midday, Israeli police opened two of the gates to the compound to allow worshipers to enter through the newly erected detectors.

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Police said some worshipers refused to go through them and knelt to pray outside instead. But despite concerns that the new measures could slow movement and spark renewed tensions, police said they appeared to be working fine and that 200 people had already passed through.

Israel did not coordinate the changes with Jordan, which serves as the custodian of the Muslim-administered site, according to a Jordanian official.

Jordan’s stance is that anything installed at the site must be approved by the Waqf, or Muslim administration, and cannot change the status quo, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the still developing situation with reporters.

The Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Adnan Husseini called for the security arrangements to return to how they were before the deadly attack, saying it ‘‘shouldn’t be an excuse for making changes.’’


The attack triggered a rare phone conversation between Netanyahu and Palestine’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned the attack and called for the site to be reopened.

Netanyahu sought to allay Muslim fears, saying that the status quo at the Muslim-administered site ‘‘will be preserved.’’ But Gaza’s Hamas rulers called the act a ‘‘religious war’’ and urged Palestinians to carry out more attacks.

Early Sunday, Israeli police said security forces shot dead a Palestinian assailant behind a pair of recent shooting attacks.

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police tracked down the 34-year-old suspect in a joint operation with the military. The suspect opened fire with an automatic weapon, prompting the troops to kill him.

In the past two years, Palestinians have killed 45 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shootings, and car-ramming attacks.


During that period, Israeli forces have killed more than 255 Palestinians, most of them said by Israel to be attackers while others were killed in clashes with Israeli forces.