CAIRO (Reuters) – The Arab League said on Thursday Israel’s removal of new security measures that sparked days of violence at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque had solved the immediate crisis but urged it to learn lessons by desisting from any such steps in future.
The dispute erupted after Israel installed metal detectors, cameras and steel barriers at Muslim entrances to the Aqsa compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, following the July 14 killing of two Israeli policemen by Arab gunmen who had concealed weapons inside the walled plaza.
The unannounced move provoked days of unrest, with violent clashes on the streets of East Jerusalem. Israeli forces shot dead four Palestinians, and a Palestinian man stabbed and killed three Israelis in their home in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
“Israel’s withdrawal from its provocative and illegal actions solves the crisis they themselves created,” Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said at an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers on Thursday.
“Dealing with Islamic sanctities with such imprudence poses a real threat of igniting a religious war, because no Muslim in the world accepts tarnishing Al-Aqsa or its closure in the face of the worshippers or placing it under Israeli control,” Aboul Gheit said. The compound is Islam’s third most sacred site.
“I call on the occupying state to read the lessons of this crisis and the message it carries,” Aboul Gheit added.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the walled Old City and the Aqsa compound, in the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the area and declared it part of its “indivisible capital”, a move that has never been recognized internationally.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, and are extremely sensitive to the presence of Israeli security forces in and around the Noble Sanctuary.
Israel’s decision to withdraw the metal detectors and other security devices marked a significant climbdown by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government. It followed days of diplomatic effort by the United Nations, the involvement of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy and pressure from countries in the region including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Reporting by Omar Fahmy; writing by Amina Ismail; editing by Patrick Markey and Mark Heinrich