Standoff at Jerusalem holy site continues

A tense standoff was underway between Israel and Muslim worshippers at a Jerusalem holy site on Wednesday despite the removal of metal detectors, with concerns of major unrest later this week if a resolution is not found.
Also on Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of inflicting damage on Jerusalem’s “Islamic character”, in comments likely to further inflame regional tensions in a dispute over the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Muslims have refused to enter the site and have prayed in the streets outside for more than a week after Israel installed new security measures at the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
The measures followed an attack that killed two policemen and included metal detectors at entrances.
Palestinians view the move as Israel asserting further control over the site, which houses the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Israeli authorities said the metal detectors were needed because the July 14 attackers smuggled guns into the site and emerged from it to attack the officers.
Protests and deadly unrest have erupted in the days since, with clashes breaking out around the compound in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the occupied West Bank.
Hoping to calm days of unrest, Israel removed the metal detectors from the entrances to the compound and is expected to install advanced CCTV cameras instead, but Palestinians have said the modified measures are still unacceptable.
“Israel is harming Jerusalem’s Islamic character,” said Erdogan, whose roots are in political Islam, at an education conference in Ankara. “Nobody should expect us to remain silent against the double standards in Jerusalem.”
Israel’s foreign ministry responded swiftly with a stern statement denouncing the Turkish government and accusing it of behaving as though the Ottoman Empire still existed.
“It’s absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies Northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, lectures Israel, the only true democracy in the region,” spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.
The Al-Aqsa dispute, like many in the Holy Land, is about much more than security devices, taking in issues of sovereignty, religious freedom, occupation and Palestinian nationalism.
There are concerns the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday — which typically draw thousands to Al-Aqsa — will lead to serious clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces. — AFP/Reuters