TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - On Friday, three Palestinians and two Israeli police officers were killed in a shooting just outside the Haram al-Sharif which Jews call Temple Mount.
Following the incident, Israeli police briefly shut down the Aqsa compound in the occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds and canceled Muslim Friday prayers at the site for the first time since 1969.
After coming under fire from the Muslim world, Israel reopened the compound, but with metal detectors and surveillance cameras at entrances.
Since then, however, Palestinians have been refusing to enter the al-Aqsa compound through the metal detectors and hundreds of worshipers have been holding prayers outside the site with clashes occasionally breaking out.
Palestinians say Israel’s restrictions at al-Aqsa are meant to expand the Tel Aviv regime’s control over the highly-sensitive site and change its status quo.
Palestinians set to hold mass Friday prayers
Members of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, an Islamic religious trust that manages the current Islamic edifices on and around the Haram al-Sharif, urged Palestinians to close all mosques in the occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds on Friday and gather for mass prayers in front of the gates of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in a show of anger at Israel’s new measures.
Waqf head Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib said all of the speakers of the East Jerusalem al-Quds mosques were requested not to hold prayers at their local sites, but instead head to al-Aqsa.
Israeli authorities should abandon installing metal detectors at al-Aqsa’s gates and end pursuing policies that “harm world peace,” he added.
Meanwhile, Issam Musleh, a spokesperson for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem al-Quds, said Israeli policies represented violations and “assaults” on al-Aqsa, stressing, “We will not give up on each other under these circumstances at al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Hanan Ashrawi, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member, said the metal detectors and cameras at the mosque were the latest example of “Israel’s unbridled violations” that “constitutes a flagrant violation of the rights and freedoms of Palestinian Muslim worshipers.”
“Such intrusive and dehumanizing practices aim to provide Israel with carte blanche to exercise security control over the holy sites of Jerusalem… Undoubtedly, Israel is deliberately creating and escalating a situation of instability, insecurity and violence; with its recent escalations, the Israeli occupation is not only provoking the Palestinians, but the entire Muslim world and the international legal system,” she said in a statement.
Israeli forces are on high alert ahead of the mass Friday prayers. On Thursday, the Israeli army announced that it was leaving five extra battalions on alert, including in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu: No change regarding new Aqsa devices
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized that he was sticking to a decision concerning metal detectors at al-Aqsa despite rising tensions.
"There is no change regarding the metal detectors," he said in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, following a phone conversation with Israeli security chiefs.
He further claimed that “the installation of metal detectors does not constitute any change in the status quo," adding it is only meant to prevent a repeat of an attack with weapons.
Additionally, Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told the Army Radio that he "hoped" the metal detectors would remain in place over the weekend.
This is while Israeli media reported that the regime's authorities were at odds over the new devices.
The occupied territories have witnessed tensions ever since Israeli forces imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into al-Aqsa two years ago.
The Tel Aviv regime has been trying to change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem al-Quds by constructing settlements, destroying historical sites and expelling the local Palestinian population.
More than 300 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces since October 2015, when the tensions intensified.