Israel has removed most of the security measures it had installed recently at the al Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. Israel’s actions follow two weeks of violent protests that left at least six Palestinians dead.
The al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Sunni Islam. The control of the mosque is with the Kingdom of Jordan but Israeli Security Forces are permitted to patrol and conduct searches within its perimeter.
Due to this, Israeli government in July 2017, installed a number of security measures that aggrieved the Palestinians. This included rules stating Muslim men under the age of 50 would not be allowed to enter the premises. The protestors especially had demanded the removal of the metal detectors.
To many Palestinians, the al Aqsa is a considered the “red line”. When Israel added these security measures, widespread violence broke out. Devotees refused to enter the compound and staged protests by conducting prayers outside the compound.
At least six Palestinians have died as a result of the daily clashes. Hundreds more have been injured due to confrontation with Israeli forces. The Israeli troops have used rubbed coated steel bullets on the protestors. In retaliation, a Palestinian killed three members of an Israeli family in July.
Jordan, too has pressed Israel to remove the metal detectors. Many of the 7 million Jordanians are of Palestinian origin and thousands took to the streets to protest against Israel. A violent incident in the Israeli Embassy in Jordan left two Jordanians dead and an Israeli guard injured.
As calls for peace started to grow stronger from the international community, Israel removed the metal detectors. At first, the Israeli Parliament discussed adding different security measures that were less intrusive but Palestinians continued their boycott of the mosque.
Thus, in the latest move, Israel has removed more of the security installations.
Palestinians have taken this as a sign of victory. Additionally, Muslim leaders who are at al Aqsa have given permission to the Palestinians to enter the compound again and commence regular prayer.
Our assessment is that Israel and Palestine may have narrowly averted a protracted conflict with devastating consequences. However, if Israel were to try to once again implement similar measures, it could lead to another cycle of violence.