Posts Tagged ‘Dome of the Rock’

Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa Mosque: Saudi state news agency

January 30, 2018

A general view of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City in Al-Aqsa mosque compound. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP)
DUBAI: Groups of Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem early Tuesday morning, Saudi Arabian state news agency reported citing a Palestinian source.
The General Director of the Islamic Awqaf and Al-Aqsa Affairs, Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, said today’s raid by the Jewish settlers was carried through Al-Magharebah Gate and under heavy protection of Israeli special forces and police.
Al-Khatib added that the settlers toured the Al-Aqsa yards in provocation.

US Christian tourists see deep meaning in Trump’s Jerusalem move

January 21, 2018


© AFP / by Mike Smith | Members of a group of American Baptist Christian tourists stand at the Mount of Olives as they look towards Jerusalem’s Old City and the Dome of the Rock on January 20, 2018

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Near the olive grove where Christians believe Jesus agonised before his crucifixion, an American visitor spoke of a decision by US President Donald Trump some believe also holds spiritual importance.Phillip Dunn, the 37-year-old pastor of an evangelical Christian church in the US state of South Carolina, said he saw Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month as part of biblical prophecy.

“Certainly this holds a lot of significance for people in that way. We believe Christ is going to return,” Dunn, part of a group of around 50 American Southern Baptists visiting Jerusalem holy sites over the weekend, said before climbing back aboard a tour bus.

Trump’s controversial declaration on December 6 will be back in the spotlight over the coming days with Vice President Mike Pence arriving Sunday night for talks with Israeli officials in Jerusalem.

Dunn and his fellow believers are key backers of Trump’s move in the United States and part of the Christian evangelical community there that has become an important pillar of support for his Republican party.

Pence, who stood behind Trump as he made his Jerusalem announcement, is himself an evangelical Christian.

Dunn and others on the Jerusalem tour, planned before Trump’s announcement, said they were pleased with his declaration because they consider it important to support Israel and affirm its claim that the entire city is its capital.

But there were also otherworldly considerations among the group.

Some evangelicals believe, based on interpretations of scripture, that firmly establishing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and establishing a new temple there could help lead to the second coming of Jesus.

Dunn and others on the trip said interpretations of Jerusalem’s place in biblical prophecy vary too widely to provide a simple answer such as that one.

– ‘A lot of mystery’ –

Brett Burleson, a pastor at a church in Alabama, said “there’s a lot of mystery to that, so I don’t claim to know how it’s all going to play out”.

“We do recognise that this is a place where we believe the Lord Jesus himself will return and bring a peaceful end to human history,” the 47-year-old said.

Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel occupied and later annexed its eastern sector in the Six-Day War of 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.

It sees the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump’s declaration deeply angered the Palestinians, with president Mahmud Abbas cancelling plans to meet Pence during his visit, which had been set for late December before being postponed.

The declaration was partly the result of a long political debate in the United States, with a law passed calling for the embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1995.

It however allowed presidents to sign a waiver every six months to prevent the embassy move for national security reasons.

Trump again signed the waiver when declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital last month, but stressed he intended to move the embassy.

He also said Jerusalem’s final borders and status would have to be negotiated, but Palestinians were unconvinced.

– ‘Probably not’ –

David Parsons, vice president of the International Christian Embassy based in Jerusalem, said he helped draft an earlier version of the embassy legislation while working for a pro-Israel lobbying firm in the United States.

“We have a large, broad movement worldwide that supports Israel on various motivations,” Parsons said of the primarily evangelical Christian embassy.

“Some are motivated by biblical prophecy, but there’s a broad array of views on biblical prophecy.”

Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, said Sunday that Israel has long reached out to US Christian groups for support.

Specifically mentioning evangelicals, Shoval said “we may not agree with everything anybody says about the future of Israel or the future of the country.”

Some evangelicals believe Jews would eventually have to convert to Christianity.

“But we must look at the present situation,” he told journalists.

“The present situation is that there is a very important body of people in America who believe — honestly and genuinely believe — in the future of the Jewish people and its place in the Jewish country in Israel.”

Lewis Richerson, 37, a pastor from Louisiana on the Jerusalem tour, may be among those he had in mind.

His support for Trump’s declaration was “primarily political” since backing Israel in part helps “promote democracy and freedom around the world.”

Richerson said of the declaration: “Is that some type of biblical prophecy? Probably not.”

by Mike Smith

After UN General Assembly Supported Palestinians, Hamas Leaders Called For ‘Red Bloody Day’ in West Bank

December 22, 2017

Continuing its protest of Trump’s Jerusalem recognition, and fearing that riots may quiet down, terror group’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar offers detailed instructions for violence

  • Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar addresses followers in the Gaza Strip in a televised speech, December 21, 2017. (Screen capture: Al-Aqsa Television)
    Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar addresses followers in the Gaza Strip in a televised speech, December 21, 2017. (Screen capture: Al-Aqsa Television)
  • Muslim worshipers hold a portrait of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following Friday noon prayer in Jerusalem's Old City's al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount, December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
    Muslim worshipers hold a portrait of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following Friday noon prayer in Jerusalem’s Old City’s al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount, December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
  • Muslim worshipers hold Palestinian and Turkish flags following Friday noon prayer in Jerusalem's Old City's al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount, December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
    Muslim worshipers hold Palestinian and Turkish flags following Friday noon prayer in Jerusalem’s Old City’s al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount, December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
  • Israeli security forces stand guard in Jerusalem's Old City on December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
    Israeli security forces stand guard in Jerusalem’s Old City on December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
  • Muslim worshippers perform Friday noon prayer near the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem's Old City's al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount, December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
    Muslim worshippers perform Friday noon prayer near the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City’s al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount, December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
  • Muslim worshippers walk in Jerusalem's Old City's al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount before Friday's noon prayers, December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
    Muslim worshippers walk in Jerusalem’s Old City’s al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount before Friday’s noon prayers, December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, in a rare televised address on Thursday, called for Friday to be a “red bloody day,” following the day’s United Nations vote against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Sinwar called on “the people of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Palestinians everywhere, to spring into action on Friday so it will be a red bloody day for the occupation,” he said in the speech, broadcast on Al-Aqsa Television.

“I call for turning Friday into a decisive day in the struggle of our people to bring down the decision of Trump,” he added, speaking before a crowd of Gazan youth.

Amid fears in the terror group’s ranks that violent Palestinian protests against Trump’s December 6 announcement were fading, Sinwar gave specific instructions to would-be attackers in an explicit bid to fan the flames in the West Bank.

He urged Palestinians in the West Bank to head towards places of contact with IDF forces and to attack the soldiers. He also urged attacked against Israeli civilians living in the West Bank.

On Friday morning the terror group amplified Sinwar’s instructions, telling supporters to head out to protests and rallies after Friday morning prayers. The organization specifically called on Palestinians in Bethlehem to gather “near the northern entrance of Bethlehem, and march towards the points of contact with the occupation,” which would bring the protesters to the checkpoints leading to Jerusalem.

And in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, it called for people to join a march “which will begin after Friday prayers in front of the new mosque.”

Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, seeks to destroy Israel. It has been urging a new intifada since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, and has encouraged thousands of Gazans to confront Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence, where there have been several fatalities in recent weeks.

Trump’s announcement earlier this month was followed by violent Palestinian protests in the West Bank and Gaza, but the protests subsided considerably after the first week, and Israeli officials believe there is little likelihood of a full-fledged wave of violence developing.

Sinwar also rejected the proposed US framework for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians — though the Trump administration has yet to make such a framework public. He said that the deal would end the Palestinian struggle, and that the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was the first step of the deal.

A week ago Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called for every Friday henceforth to be a day of rage across Palestinian, Arab and Muslim lands until Trump rescinds his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In his speech directed to Gaza’s young men, Sinwar also admitted that the Palestinian reconciliation process is failing over a dispute about the future of the terror group’s weapons.

“Whoever doesn’t see that reconciliation is collapsing is blind,” said Sinwar.

“Some people want reconciliation on Israeli and American terms, which means handing over weapons and the tunnels and rocket capabilities,” he added.

An Egyptian-brokered agreement in early October originally set a December 1 deadline for the terror group to fully transfer power in the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, though that was later pushed back to December 10.

Masked operatives from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of the Hamas terror group, ride vehicles as they commemorate the 30th anniversary of their group, in Gaza City, December 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

In Gaza, the situation has remained essentially unchanged despite the deadline, with Hamas police still patrolling the streets, while crippling electricity shortages endure.

Hamas claimed earlier in December that it had handed over control of all government ministries, but Fatah’s top negotiator later said “obstacles” remained.

Since the start of this reconciliation process between rival Palestinian factions — several others have failed in the past — the question over the fate of Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing has been a thorny issue between the sides.

Hamas’s new deputy leader Salah al-Arouri (seated L) and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad (seated R) sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements work to end their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)

Abbas wants the PA to be in full control of all weapons and security in the Gaza Strip, but Hamas is refusing to give up its arsenal. Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, has fought three wars with Israel since seizing power from Fatah in the enclave in 2007.

Abbas has also not yet lifted sanctions against Hamas, including cutting payments for electricity, further worsening an already severe power shortage in Gaza.

Both sides still publicly say they remain committed to the reconciliation.

AFP contributed to this report.


Support for Hezbollah maintains Arab security — Iran not ashamed for supporting Hezbollah in confrontation with Israel

December 16, 2017


In an interview with Al-Monitor, Iranian Ambassador to Jordan Mojtaba Ferdosipour discusses regional developments, including accusations against Iran of supporting terrorism in the Arab world.

AMMAN, Jordan — Iranian Ambassador to Jordan Mojtaba Ferdosipour has chosen the map of Palestine as a centerpiece for his office, along with a Dome of the Rock miniature. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Ferdosipour said he believes Palestine represents a compass for regional issues, all of which should point toward “one enemy, Israel.”

“Yet,” Ferdosipour said, “this compass has lost its bearings in recent years, after Arab governments replaced Israel with Iran as their enemy.” He also asserted that many Arab peoples do not agree with their leaders in terms of discarding this compass and normalizing relations with Israel.

Iran “does not want to take control of the Arab capitals,” he said, dismissing the Nov. 19 Arab League foreign ministers meeting, which concluded that Iran’s missiles are threatening Arab capitals. The Arab League conclusion was in response to the Houthis launching ballistic missiles at Riyadh on Nov. 4. Ferdosipour denied allegations that Iran was supporting Houthis in Sanaa and supplying them with missiles, but on the other hand said Iran is proud of its support for Lebanese Hezbollah in confronting Israel.

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Ferdosipour previously served as director of the Foreign Ministry’s Middle East Department and as charge d’affaires in Amman. He also served in the latter capacity in Beirut prior to assuming his current post, in August 2014.

The ambassador said that rumors about his mandate coming to an end were simply that, adding that the Council of Ministers needs to approve any extension of his mandate.

Al-Monitor interviewed Ferdosipour Nov. 22 at his office in Amman and followed up by phone. A transcript of that interview, slightly edited for clarity, follows.

Al-Monitor:  Do you expect the Sochi summit, which brought together Iran, Turkey and Russia on Nov. 22, to produce progress in the negotiations on the conflict in Syria?

Ferdosipour:  The Sochi summit came against the backdrop of a previous agreementbetween Russia, Turkey and Iran to find solutions to the Syrian crisis, which established the course of the Astana negotiations. The Sochi summit follows the same course and aims to harvest the fruits of the efforts put into anti-terrorism operations, particularly in Abu Kamal and other areas plagued by terrorists and the Islamic State (IS). This is the beginning of a new chapter for the political solution and the start of joint negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition.

Al-Monitor:  Why were countries like the US, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which are actively involved in the Syrian crisis, absent from the Sochi summit?

Ferdosipour:  The summit came after a tripartite agreement was reached [in December 2016] between Russia, Turkey and Iran in Moscow [to sponsor an agreement between the Syrian regime and the opposition]. If some parties were not present, this does not mean they are absent from the consensus. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to leaders from Egypt, the US and Saudi Arabia over the phone. Communication channels are always open between all parties when it comes to reaching political solutions after military operations.

Al-Monitor:  Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri returned to Lebanon on Nov. 21 after announcing his resignation [as prime minister] from Saudi Arabia, accusing Iran of spreading violence in the region. However, reports suggested that Saudi Arabia had forced Hariri to resign after his rapprochement with Iran. What do you think about this?

Ferdosipour:  The media highlighted the fact that Hariri’s resignation was forced upon himby Saudi Arabia. What we heard during the resignation speech were either forced or politicized words. It is important for us to hear the right words without any kind of coercion.

It is our policy in Lebanon to communicate with all parties. When the senior adviser to the supreme leader on international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, last visited Lebanon, on Nov. 3, he held a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri at the presidential palace, during which many common issues were put forward. Hariri himself was even supportive of the Iranian ideas regarding a solution for the Syrian crisis. This seems to have upset some parties, and Hariri was indeed forced into resigning because of a political stance and not because of financial corruption, as some reported.

Over the past decades we have tried to keep our relationship with all parties in Lebanon flexible, and we have always believed that supporting security and stability in Lebanon can only be achieved by supporting all parties in the political arena, without leaving out any religion or sect, or else we would be making a big mistake.

Those who think that Hezbollah should be pushed out of the [Lebanese] political arena and marginalized are mistaken. We advise all regional parties to realize that maintaining Lebanon’s security and stability can only happen if all concerned parties reach a single vision and cooperate to strengthen their relations. All foreign parties need to support this idea.

“Iran’s presence and its support for the resistance in the region aim to maintain Arab security, threatened by the common enemy. We are all in the same boat when it comes to confronting the Israeli enemy.”

Al-Monitor:  How do you perceive the Arab League’s position regarding Iran’s missiles, how they pose a threat to Arab capitals and support terrorist groups?

Ferdosipour:  This is neither accurate nor worthwhile. The Arab League meeting hinted at Iran wanting to occupy and control Arab capitals, but we completely reject all allegations regarding missiles. Iran does not support the Houthis and Ansar Allah in Sanaa. There is no way to reach Sanaa, and even if there were, Iran would only bring food to support the people of Yemen, but there is no outlet to deliver food and aid. So how were we supposed to give Ansar Allah large quantities of missiles?

Those missiles are locally manufactured by the Yemeni army, and Iran has nothing to do with them. Tittle-tattle about exporting Iranian ballistic missiles and weapons to Ansar Allah to strike Saudi Arabia is a lie.

The Yemeni crisis must be resolved through a political solution. The military solution is utterly unacceptable here. All Yemeni parties should hold negotiations supervised by the United Nations in order to resolve their internal problems. We have spoken to the UN secretary-general in this regard, and we have repeatedly declared initiatives for a cease-fire, humanitarian aid for Yemen and a joint political dialogue to legitimize the Yemeni government without interference from outside parties.

Al-Monitor:  Let’s go back to Hezbollah. Who would benefit from disbanding this party?

Ferdosipour:  Israel would benefit the most. There is no doubt about it. We have heard Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah say that Hezbollah did not send weapons to any Arab country except to the Palestinians in Gaza to support them in their wars against the Israelis. He also stressed that his movement has never supported the Yemenis, but participated in the fight against terrorism in Syria, which comes in the context of maintaining Lebanon’s security and stability, since IS made its way to the Lebanese border. Everyone agrees on the need to fight terrorism and eliminate IS and Jabhat al-Nusra, since both groups are on the UN’s blacklist.

Al-Monitor:  But there is a difference over the definition of terrorism. Is there anyone who fears the presence of Iranian forces and Shiite militias in Syria? How strong is the Iranian presence in Syria?

Ferdosipour:  Iran has a legitimate presence in both Iraq and Syria. Iranian military advisers only intervene at the request of the legitimate regime and government. When the Iraqi and Syrian legitimate regimes tell us to leave, we will, no questions asked. We have proudly supported the Syrian and Iraqi armies in fighting terrorism, and we never took this issue lightly. Other parties were not quite honest in their actions. Unfortunately, whenever IS was besieged in the Syrian regions, the US would come in and safely move the group to other areas.

Al-Monitor:  There are Jordanian and Arab concerns about a route connecting Tehran to Beirut through Iraq and Damascus. Is Iran really working on this route?

Ferdosipour:  We have put a lot of money toward fighting the common enemy of the Arab Islamic world, Israel. Iran’s presence and its support for the resistance in the region aim to maintain Arab security, threatened by the common enemy. We are all in the same boat when it comes to confronting the Israeli enemy. So why are there concerns about our presence? We have always insisted that our enemy is the Zionist entity, represented by the brutal occupation of Palestine.

We are not afraid to say that we support Hezbollah toward the liberation of Palestine, especially since Hezbollah succeeded in liberating Lebanese territories in the south in 2000 with Iranian support.

We are not ashamed of supporting Hezbollah in fighting Israel. Why does Iran need this route? To support Hezbollah in order to combat the Israeli occupation. We are proud of this because it does not target any Arab country or people, because we have always opposed the interference of foreign parties in Arab affairs.

Al-Monitor:  We are seeing a rapprochement, albeit unpublicized, between Saudi Arabia and Israel. How do you view this?

Ferdosipour:  Instead of [Arab countries] treating Israel as the enemy, Iran is taking the blow. Many peoples do not agree with their leaders in this regard. The decisions to normalize relations with the Israelis are made by governments and palaces and not by the people themselves.

Al-Monitor:  Is this Israeli-Saudi rapprochement an attempt to confront Iran?

Ferdosipour:  No, this is not true. Israel is afraid of going to war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. So how will it fight Iran? Most recently, the Israeli chief of staff, Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, said, on Nov. 16, that “Saudi Arabia will not nag us into a war with Iran and will not wage proxy wars.” If Israel can’t even attack Hezbollah and fears its capacities, how could it wage war on Iran? War will not stop at the border. It will extend beyond the settlements.

In the end, if Israel does not want to engage in a war with Iran, how can Saudi Arabia want otherwise? This is mere media buzz.

Al-Monitor:  Jordanian-Iranian relations are not at their best currently. Has Iran tried to reopen communication channels with Jordan?

Ferdosipour:  We do not beg to rebuild relations. When the doors to promote and consolidate economic relations open, for example, between Iran and Jordan, the Jordanian side will benefit the most. The Iranian market consists of 80 million people while the Jordanian market comprises about 9 million people. In addition, the quality provided by the industrial sector in Jordan does not compare with that available in Iran.

When I took office in 2014, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani asked me to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries. It is necessary to move in this right direction, since Jordan’s security is important for Iran’s security and vice versa.

There should be joint political committees between the two parties. We honestly hope to strengthen our economic relations as well. After the fight against terrorism, we must focus on the stability of the region by establishing a joint economic committee, especially since [the region] is suffering under terrorism as well as intellectual and economic extremism. The financial and intellectual resources of terrorism must be drained, as much as we must fight poverty and unemployment by strengthening economic relations.

For instance, we should find a common railway. There are over 350 million Muslims in Central Asia and the Caucasus, along with Turkey and Iraq, which means there is half a billion people, 1 billion of whom will need transportation to perform the umrah and hajj. Iran has extended a railway to southern Iraq, and it can be connected to the holy city through the Tarbil or Aqaba crossings. This will help toward the problem of unemployment, as the railway will require a significant labor force.

There is also a second project that consists of an electrical line connecting Central Asia, the Caucasus, China and the Arab world, after which we can consider an oil and gas project, in order to eventually overcome all obstacles.

However, some countries are preventing the Jordanian government from having ties with Iran. I have information that the Jordanian government began economic cooperation by forming economic committees between Iraq and Jordan. In 2015, Iran and Jordan agreed to form joint economic committees, but after Saudi-Iranian ties went up in flames, the Saudi Embassy in Tehran was shut down, and the Jordanian ambassador to Tehran was summoned in 2016, the committees suspended their work.

Al-Monitor:  Jordan fears the presence of Iranian forces and Hezbollah near the Jordanian border. How do you view this concern?

Ferdosipour:  We have always stayed in touch with the Kingdom of Jordan, and we have supported it in Astana in order for it to become an observer member. The Jordanians attended the seven rounds of negotiations, and the issue of borders was on the table. Even when the tripartite agreement between Russia, the US and Jordan, began to reduce the escalation in southern Syria, we supported this idea. So I do not understand where such concerns might come from. We need to sit down and have a closed-door dialogue instead of allowing media rumors to influence us.

Al-Monitor:  What is Iran’s take on the US president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US Embassy there?

Ferdosipour:  Iran strongly condemned Trump’s Jerusalem move and announced that this decision violates all international conventions issued by the United Nations on Palestine and Jerusalem. As soon as the US decision was announced, thousands of people across Iran gathered in support of the Palestinian cause and of Jerusalem being the capital of Palestine, while denouncing the US policies.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit held in Turkey Dec. 13 that the US recognition proves to those who believe in the US’ positive role to solve the Palestinian crisis that the US only thinks about the interests of the Zionist entity and does not respect the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.

Rouhani further stressed during the summit the importance of the Palestinian cause’s return to the scene as a central issue in the region, especially after IS was defeated in Iraq and Syria. He also emphasized the need for the UN Security Council and General Assembly to reject Trump’s decision.

Mohammad Ersan is editor in chief of and Radio al-Balad. He also reports for Arabi21 from Jordan, trains future broadcast journalists at regional symposia and has contributed to establishing independent broadcast stations in Istanbul and Syria. Ersan focuses on covering Islamist groups and political parties. He completed his bachelor’s degree in journalism and media with a minor in political science at Yarmouk University

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Abbas to boycott Pence as protests over Jerusalem continue — “Let us die as martyrs — there is no place for the State of Israel.”

December 9, 2017

Hundreds protest at funerals in Gaza and along border fence; soldiers use tear gas to disperse rioters near Bethlehem

Members of Hamas military wing carry the body of their comrade Mohamed al-Safadi, who was killed the previous day in an Israeli air strike, during his funeral in Gaza City on December 9, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Members of Hamas military wing carry the body of their comrade Mohamed al-Safadi, who was killed the previous day in an Israeli air strike, during his funeral in Gaza City on December 9, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not meet with US Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the West Bank this month, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday as protests continued due to the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Abbas’ diplomatic adviser, Majdi Khaldi, said Saturday that Abbas won’t meet Pence “because the US has crossed red lines” on Jerusalem.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017 as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Abbas had viewed close ties with Washington as strategically important because of the US role as Mideast broker. The snub of Pence signaled a sharp deterioration in relations.

Demonstrations continued Saturday as Palestinians called for a further “Day of Rage” to protest Trump’s decision.

In Gaza, where four people have been killed — two Hamas gunmen killed in an airstrike on one of  the terror group’s camps, and two who were shot during Friday’s protests — hundreds of Palestinians were protesting near the border fence with Israel and at the funerals for the dead.

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Mahmoud al-Masri, a 30-year-old Palestinian man who was killed the previous day in clashes with Israeli troops, during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

One Palestinian was seriously wounded by Israeli fire in a demonstration by the fence in southern Gaza, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

In East Jerusalem, dozens of people tried to block a main road and confront policemen who were guarding the site. The crowd was dispersed, police said, without giving details.

Video showed horse-mounted police officers charging into crowds of people.

In the West Bank, there were clashes near the Tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem, where soldiers were using tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades to turn back demonstrators who were throwing rocks and burning tires. At least 10 Palestinians were hurt, most by smoke inhalation, Israel Radio reported.

There were several smaller protests in the cities of Tulkarem and Hebron, with no immediate reports of injuries.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on December 9, 2017, following the US president’s decision to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER)

Meanwhile some 100 people protested in the Bedouin town of Rahat in southern Israel, the Ynet news site reported.

In a Wednesday address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Friday saw some 5,000 Palestinian protesters demonstrating and clashing with Israeli security forces at almost 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday after midday prayers.

A Palestinian protestor uses a sling shot to throw stones towards Israeli security forces during clashes after the Friday prayers in the city center of the West Bank town of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

Gaza-based terror groups fired rockets at Israel, with one landing in the southern town of Sderot; Israel responded with air strikes on Hamas targets. On Saturday, the Hamas-run health ministry said two Hamas gunmen were killed in one of the strikes on a Hamas facility in Nusseirat in the central Gaza Strip.

The rocket on Sderot caused minor damage, and no injuries.

The Israeli army said it was braced for more protests on Saturday, and it stepped up the deployment of troops at West Bank settlements in an attempt to thwart any attempted terror attacks. It said the 5,000 demonstrators on Friday marked a lower number than anticipated, but expected protests to continue for several more days, Hadashot news reported on Friday night.

The army was expected to hold a review of the situation on Saturday evening and decide on the continued deployment of additional troops in the area, Israel Radio said Saturday.

On Friday, Hamas called on the Palestinian public to confront IDF soldiers and Israeli settlers across the West Bank in demonstrations on Saturday. There was also sporadic rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel.

In Jerusalem, hundreds of Palestinian rallied after Friday prayers near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a flashpoint site in the holy city which, along with the Dome of the Rock, sits on the Temple Mount. The holiest place in Judaism, the mount is known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif. PLO and Turkish flags were raised during Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa.

Most of the thousands of worshipers dispersed peacefully after Friday prayers in the Old City. But hundreds of demonstrators burned Israeli flags while others chanted, “The war is approaching, Al-Quds Arabiya,” using the Arabic name for Jerusalem and declaring it an “Arab” city. Protesters also chanted, “Let us die as martyrs — there is no place for the State of Israel.”


Palestinians Voice Despair Over Trump’s Jerusalem Decision: ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ — Jerusalem is the flash point — The City sees “euphoria on the one hand, despair on the other”

December 7, 2017

Expectations of Palestinians living in Jerusalem are so low that nothing can shock them

By Nir Hasson

Nir Hasson Dec 07, 2017 7:20 AM
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Palestinians watch a televised broadcast of Trump in Jerusalem's Old City December 6, 2017.

Palestinians watch a televised broadcast of Trump in Jerusalem’s Old City December 6, 2017. AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS
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A few hours after U.S. President Donald Trump’s dramatic declaration of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, two things happened in its Old City: City Hall turned on the spotlights and projected the American and Israelis flags on its ancient walls. Meanwhile, the lights illuminating the Al-Aqsa Mosque went black.

At first it appeared to be a planned protest, but it turned out that a power outage killed the light on the Dome of the Rock. Nonetheless, these two events perfectly captured the mood in the city: euphoria on the one hand, despair on the other.

Even WhatsApp, the messaging service that’s popular among both Israelis and Palestinians, went silent. In East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, some activists tried to put together a demonstration, but a message soon went out saying there would be a general strike. An hour and a half after the speech, rumors began to spread that there would be a march on the Temple Mount. Palestinian activists who spoke with Haaretz said that a response on the streets could be expected as early as Wednesday night, but it would likely be relatively restrained.

It seems that the expectations of Palestinians living in Jerusalem – from the international community, from the Arab world and even from the Palestinian leadership – are so low that nothing can shock them.

.However, as the blackout of Al-Aqsa hinted, there is a pervasive fear that this new diplomatic low could translate into a religious furor that would set the city ablaze.
Trump’s comments regarding the need to maintain the status quo in Jerusalem did little to quell these concerns.

The area outside the Nablus Gate functions as East Jerusalem’s public square: This is where journalists from around the world to talk to the Palestinian man on the street. On Wednesday, dozens of reporters convened there in the rain to talk to Palestinians and get their reaction to Trump’s announcement. But the word on the street can be deceiving – as much in the eastern part of the city as in the western one. While Palestinian and Arab leaders spoke with one voice, those on Jerusalem’s streets spoke with many. “Nothing will change, no one really cares, we want to live. Why would people make a mess and start an intifada, so their kids will die?” asked Ziad Fauzi, a merchant from the Old City, rhetorically. “What difference does it make if the embassy is here or in Tel Aviv or in Hebron?”

However, Ali Jedah, a Palestinian construction worker and former member of a Palestinian militant group, said, “things are about to blow, if not today, then tomorrow or the day after or the day after that. Trump’s statement does not stand alone, it’s one thing after another, from the soldiers to the humiliations, and all these things, they’re accumulating and will blow up – and Jerusalem is the flash point.”

Conversations with East Jerusalem residents ahead of Trump’s speech gave the impression that most felt more like Fauzi and not Jedah. Trump’s statement was perceived as irrelevant to their lives. For most Palestinians living in Jerusalem, Trump’s words pose little to no threat, as they’ve got nothing left to lose: It’s not as if before Trump delivered his speech, there were plans to set up a real Palestine with Al Quds, as Jerusalem is called in Arabic, as its capital. Over the years, despair at the prospect of a viable peace solution and the feeling of abandonment by the Palestinian leadership, Arab world and international community have become ingrained in the residents of East Jerusalem.

“If we stop and think, we know nothing will change, we will not really lose anything because we’ve already lost everything,” said Haled Tayeb, a head of an organization in the western, or Jewish, side of the city. “People are too busy living their own lives, surviving. People have lost all hope and just don’t care, they just want to get through the day.”

Adnan Reit, a Fatah activist in the city, was quick to point out that despair works both ways: “This won’t pass quietly because the Palestinians have been waiting for peace. There’s an entire generation that is waiting for a long time, and now they’ve destroyed their hope and now they have nothing to lose. The occupation continues, the settlements continue, the demolitions continue – so what’s do we have to fear?”

Nir Hasson
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Erdogan says Jerusalem ‘red line’, could cut Turkey-Israel ties — “We would set the entire Islamic world in motion” — Israel Fires Back at Turkey: Jerusalem Has Been the Jewish Capital for 3,000 Years

December 5, 2017

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File Photo: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan



ANKARA (AFP) – The status of Jerusalem is a “red line” for Muslims and could even prompt Turkey to cut ties with Israel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday, as US President Donald Trump mulled whether to recognise the city as the Israeli capital.

Erdogan said Turkey, which currently holds the chairmanship of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), would immediately call a summit meeting of the pan-Islamic group if Trump went ahead with the move.

“Mr Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” Erdogan said in a raucous televised speech to his ruling party that was greeted with chants and applause.

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Erdogan said that if such a move was made to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he would summon a summit of the OIC in Istanbul within five to 10 days “and we would set the entire Islamic world in motion”.

As for Turkey, Erdogan said Ankara would “follow this struggle to the very last moment with determination and we could even go right up to cutting our diplomatic relations with Israel.”

Last year, Turkey and Israel ended a rift triggered by Israel’s deadly storming in 2010 of a Gaza-bound ship that left 10 Turkish activists dead and led to a downgrading of diplomatic ties.

The two sides have since stepped up cooperation in particular in energy but Erdogan, who regards himself a champion of the Palestinian cause, is still often bitterly critical of Israeli policy.

The United States is a strong supporter of a strong relationship between Turkey, the key Muslim member of NATO, and Israel, which is Washington’s main ally in the Middle East.

Erdogan’s comments came after the White House said Trump would miss a deadline to decide on shifting the embassy from Tel Aviv, after a frantic 48 hours of public warnings from allies and private phonecalls between world leaders.


Israel Fires Back at Turkey: Jerusalem Has Been the Jewish Capital for 3,000 Years

Amid diplomatic backlash over possible change in U.S. status to Jerusalem, top Israeli official says Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital for 70 years, whether Erdogan recognizes it or not

Noa Landau and Reuters Dec 05, 2017 12:53 PM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend a signing ceremony of an agreement between the US and Israel for energy aid given by both countries to Africa, on December 4, 2017 in Jerusalem. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend a signing ceremony of an agreement between the US and Israel for energy aid given by both countries to A MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

A senior Israeli official responded to Turkey’s threat to cut ties with Israel if the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as its capital, saying that “Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for 3,000 years and the capital of Israel for 70 years, whether [Turkish President] Erdogan recognizes it as such or not.”


Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that the possibility that U.S. President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “is a red line for Muslims.” He warned that if such a decision is made it “will result in Turkey’s cutting diplomatic ties with Israel.”

Erdogan’s comments echo a growing sentiment in the Arab world and international community who are warning the U.S. against the potential fallout from the move.

The Turkish premier’s announcement follows comments by the diplomatic adviser of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who said that the Palestinian leadership would “stop contacts” with the U.S. if Trump follows through with the move.

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's president, during a news conference at the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Erdogan said he's looking forward to a "decisive meeting" with his U.S. counterpart Trump, whose decision to arm Kurdish groups against Islamic State in Syria has stoked tensions between the two NATO members. Photographer: Michael Reynolds/Pool via Bloomberg

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, during a news conference at the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday,Michael Reynolds/Bloomberg

U.S. officials have said a possible recognition might come this week, prompting Arab and Muslim backlash.

Abbas’ aide Majdi Khaldi said on Tuesday the U.S. would lose credibility as a Mideast mediator if Trump goes ahead with the move.

Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official, had even harsher words.

“So Mr. Trump came up with the slogan of the ‘deal of the century,’ or ‘the mother of all transactions’, as Saddam Hussein would say.  But the mother of all the deals dies here on the rocks in Jerusalem if he says tomorrow that he recognizes a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Shaath told reporters. “It removes any chance he will play a role in an agreement. There is no deal that begins with the destruction of the two-state solution.”

According to the Palestinians, they will turn to other countries in the world to serve as mediators in the negotiations should Trump proceed with such a decision on Jeruasalem, like China, Russia or European countries.

“Everyone conveyed a message that it would destroy any chance for peace. We do not want to reach violence, but we cannot prevent violence. ISIS is recruiting people to defend Jerusalem,” said Shaath.

Saudi Arabia also spoke out against the move, saying it hopes the U.S. will not recognize Jerusalem and warned such a decision would have serious implications, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.
“The recognition will have very serious implications and will be provocative to all Muslims’ feelings,” SPA said quoting an unnamed official source at the Saudi Foreign Ministry.

“The United States administration should take into account the negative implications of such a move and the Kingdom’s hope not to take such a decision as this will affect the U.S. ability to continue its attempt of reaching a just solution for the Palestinian cause,” the statement added.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador in Washington Prince Khalid bin Salman said any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem before a final settlement is reached in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would hurt the peace process and heighten regional tensions.

“The kingdom’s policy – has been – and remains in support of the Palestinian people, and this has been communicated to the U.S. administration,” Prince Khalid said in a statement.

Twenty-five former Israeli ambassadors, academics and peace activists on Monday expressed their opposition to the move in a letter to Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt.

The letter was written on behalf of The Policy Working Group, an organization of Israeli activists with diplomatic, academic, political and media backgrounds, including former Israeli diplomats such as Ilan Baruch, Alon Liel and Elie Barnavi. The group wrote Greenblatt that “we are deeply concerned by recent reports that President Trump is seriously considering the announcement of his decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.”


“The status of Jerusalem, the city that houses the holy sites of the three monotheistic religions, lies at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and must be determined within the context of resolving that conflict,” the letter continued.

East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, is home to major Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites. The Palestinians seek it as a future capital, while Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital.
Arab League representatives were to discuss the Jerusalem controversy on Tuesday. The organization said on Monday that Trump’s possible recognition would constitute “naked aggression” against Muslims and Arabs.

Noa Landau
Haaretz Correspondent
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“But maybe going against the conventional wisdom is a good thing.”

U.S., foreign officials warn Trump not to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital — “But maybe going against the conventional wisdom is a good thing.”

December 5, 2017


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The possibility that U.S. President Donald Trump may recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has stirred opposition from U.S. and foreign officials who fear it could unleash violence.

 President Donald Trump speaks to the press before the UN General Assembly on Sept. 18, 2017, in New York.

Such a decision, which U.S. officials have said has not been finalized, would violate decades of U.S. policy not to take a stance on the fate of Jerusalem on the grounds that this was an issue Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate and decide.

If Trump made such a move, it could spark demonstrations or violence by Palestinians or by Muslims around the world, in part because of the sensitivity of the Jerusalem site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

© AFP/File | The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The site includes the al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the golden Dome of the Rock. It was also the site of an ancient Jewish temple, the holiest place in Judaism.

Israel seized East Jerusalem, which includes the area, during a 1967 war. However, the Waqf, a Muslim religious body, manages the Islamic sites within the compound.

A senior U.S. official told Reuters last week that Trump was likely to make the announcement on Jerusalem’s being Israel’s capital on Wednesday, though his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner on Sunday said no final decision had been made.

Kushner is leading Trump’s efforts to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, efforts that so far have shown little progress.

The White House said it would not take any action on Monday on whether to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, something that Trump had promised to do in his presidential campaign.

Trump is expected to sign the waiver, according to several U.S. officials. One U.S. official said Trump was likely to accompany the signing with an order for his aides to begin serious planning for an eventual embassy move, though it was unclear whether he would establish a strict timetable.

Two other U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity that news of the plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had kicked up resistance from the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs bureau (NEA), which deals with the region.

“Senior (officials) in NEA and a number of ambassadors from the region expressed their deep concern about doing this,” said one official, saying that the concerns focused on “security.”

The State Department referred questions to the White House. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the concerns of U.S. and foreign officials about the possibility of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump, near an Israeli flag at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

A fourth U.S. official said the consensus U.S. intelligence estimate on U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was that it would risk triggering a backlash against Israel, and also potentially against U.S. interests in the Middle East.


The core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute include borders, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war and the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Islamist Hamas, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

A general view shows the Dome of the Rock and Jerusalem’s Old City December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

U.S. allies voiced their misgivings about the United States unilaterally calling Jerusalem Israel’s capital.

“Any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region,” Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, said in a statement.

French President Emmanuel Macron “expressed his concern over the possibility that the United States would unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” during a phone call with Trump on Monday, Macron’s office said after the two leaders spoke by telephone.

And in an unusually detailed statement published by Jordan’s official news agency Petra, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was quoted as having warned U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson against the move in a call on Sunday.

Safadi said such a move would “trigger anger across the Arab and Muslim world, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts,” Petra reported.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s chief representative in Washington, Husam Zomlot, said a formal U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be the “kiss of death” to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Should such a step be taken it would have catastrophic consequences,” Zomlot told Reuters.

A fifth U.S. official said concerns of Palestinian and other Arab leaders about endorsing Israel’s claim to Jerusalem were being taken into account but no final decisions had been made.

Daniel Benjamin, a former U.S. counterterrorism official now at Dartmouth University, had a simple message: “This is playing with fire.”

Israel says it foiled planned ISIS-inspired attack at Jerusalem holy site

September 28, 2017


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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel said on Thursday it had thwarted a plan by two Israeli Arabs with Islamic State sympathies to mount an attack at a contested Jerusalem holy site where a July gun ambush set off a wave of violence.

The Shin Bet security service described the suspects, aged 26 and 16, as residents of the same Israeli Arab town as three gunmen who on July 14 killed two police guards at a gate to Al-Aqsa mosque compound and were then shot dead.

Israel responded to that attack by briefly installing metal detectors outside the compound, angering Palestinians who saw that as a breach of decades-old access arrangements.

Four Palestinians were killed during ensuing confrontations with Israeli security forces and a Palestinian stabbed three Israeli settlers to death.

The two suspects taken into custody this month “support the Islamic State terrorist group’s murderous ideology and the terrorist attack was meant to be carried out in expression of this”, the Shin Bet said in its statement on Thursday.

It said they had two pistols. “They planned a gun attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem similar to what transpired on July 14,” it said without elaborating.

Jews revere the site, where Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock now stand, as the location of their two ancient temples. Attempts by Jews to pray there, in violation of access arrangements, have been a source of tension with Muslims.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City and the holy compound, in the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the area in a move that has never been recognized internationally.

Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Andrew Roche

Israeli Supreme Court: Metal Detectors Must Be Removed Because They Are “Offensive to Arabs” — But This Story May Have Another Ending

September 1, 2017



 AUGUST 31, 2017 16:00


A Jewish advocacy group claims that if metal detectors on Temple Mount are offensive to Arabs, they are offensive for Jewish people and tourists as well and should be removed.

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VIEW OVER The Temple Mount. Right: Al-Aksa Mosque. Left: Dome of the Rock. (. (photo credit:Mark Neiman/GPO)

The Jewish advocacy group Utzma Yhudit (Jewish Strength) appealed to the Supreme Court asking it to remove the metal detectors placed at the Temple Mount’s Mughrabi Gate in Jerusalem,which is the only gate from which non-Muslims can enter the compound.

The appeal was submitted to the court by lawyer Itamar Ben-Gvir and states that the decision of the Israeli cabinet to remove metal detectors from gates that serve Muslims and their continued use for Jews and tourists “creates a reality of discrimination due to nationality and damages the right of Jews and tourists to equality.”

On July 14, 2017, three Arab terrorists shot Israeli policemen outside the Temple Mount compound, killing two police officers.  

The three terrorists, all Arab Israeli citizens, fled back to the Temple Mount compound where they were captured and shot by Israeli police.

The Israeli government accepted the proposition by police that metal detectors should be used to prevent further attacks but Muslims refused to walk through them to enter al-Aksa mosque, stating that they view the detectors as a violation of the status quo.

Eventually, the detectors were removed.

Utzma Yhudit told the court that “there can be no disagreement that the decision to remove the detectors [used in relation to] Muslims was taken due to the race [sic] of these Muslims and them being Arabs.”

They requested that the usage of detectors in relation to Jews and non-Muslims be halted until the court reaches a decision.