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Jerusalem: Muslim worshippers urged to continue holy site boycott

Posted July 26

Palestinian leaders have urged Muslim worshippers to keep praying outside the al-Aqsa compound in protest at Israel's installation of metal detectors and security cameras near the site, even though Israel removed the metal detectors early Tuesday morning.

Speaking at a leadership meeting on Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: "All the Israeli measures on the ground from that date to the present day are supposed to cease to exist and then things will return to normal in Jerusalem."

In addition to the removal of metal detectors and security cameras, Palestinian leaders demanded the removal of the additional police officers Israel assigned to the site.

The Jordanian authority in charge of the holy site, the Islamic Waqf, called on Muslims to pray in public places in protest.

The Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs, Sheikh Yusuf Adais, urged preachers to speak about the city of Jerusalem and "the violations against Christian and Islamic holy sites."

Read: The two words that explain tensions over Jerusalem's Old City

Since Israel installed the security measures, Waqf leaders have not entered al-Aqsa to pray, and many Muslims follow the lead of the Waqf.

The declaration of the political and religious leaders has increased the likelihood of widespread demonstrations in and around Jerusalem following Friday's midday Muslim prayers. The demonstrations often turn into clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli soldiers, fueling a wave of unrest instead of diffusing the situation.

Metal detectors

Israel installed metal detectors and security cameras near the entrance to the sacred site -- known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount -- following an attack in which two Israeli police officers were killed. The removal of the metal detectors was applauded by the White House.

Read: Christian man prays with Jerusalem Muslims as religious tensions flare

The security measures led to a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Jordan, which was largely resolved by Tuesday. But tensions remain high with the Palestinian Authority, which froze contacts with Israel following the installation of the metal detectors. The freeze includes security coordination, which is considered a critical part of the relationship between the Israeli's and Palestinians.

Leaving open the possibility of a change in the Palestinian Authority's position, Abbas said: "There are new developments, which we must study so that we can say our word and decide where to go from here."

US effect

Meanwhile, Jason D. Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump's special envoy for international negotiations, visited the Halamish settlement in the West Bank on Wednesday where three members of an Israeli family were killed last week in the wake of deadly protests.

Greenblatt tweeted on Wednesday, "With a heavy heart I visited the Solomons. Three brutally murdered at their Shabbat table in terror attack. May their memories be a blessing."

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman joined Greenblatt in the visit, tweeting in part, "Comforting the Solomon family: Such strength in the face of adversity!"

The two senior US officials were joined by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Greenblatt visited the region in an effort to defuse escalating tensions. He met with Israeli leaders earlier in the week before visiting Jordan on Monday and Tuesday and has since returned to Israel.

But speaking to CNN, Fatah Central Committee Member Nasser Alkidwa says the Palestinians had expected a "more active contribution" from the Americans, though he remains "hopeful" for the future.

"Frankly we would have been much happier with a more effective American role," he said.

"We were expecting some active contribution on the level of the overall political processes and attempt to reach the ultimate deal that President Trump has spoken about and also with regard to the current crisis."

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