Israel to replace metal detectors with ‘less obtrusive’ devices

Israeli guard being held by Jordan after he killed two men as one of them attacked him

Jordanian security forces near the Israel embassy, in Amman, Jordan. Photograph: Ahmad Abdo/EPA

Jordanian security forces near the Israel embassy, in Amman, Jordan. Photograph: Ahmad Abdo/EPA

 

Israel on Tuesday decided to remove metal detectors it had placed at the entrance to a holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City with other, less obtrusive surveillance means, a cabinet statement said.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted to remove the metal detector gates after a meeting lasting several hours convening for a second time after they had broken off discussions a day earlier.

Meanwhile, a senior Israeli security official held talks in the Jordanian capital on Monday to defuse a burgeoning diplomatic crisis after Jordan refused to release the Israeli embassy security guard. He opened fire and killed two Jordanians after one of them attacked him with a screwdriver.

Jordan sought to question the guard and threatened to take unspecified “diplomatic steps” against Israel, but Israel insists the guard acted in self-defence and is entitled to diplomatic immunity.

Israeli embassy staff were in lockdown as Jordanian authorities sealed off the area around the embassy ahead of a large anti-Israel protest.

Mr Netanyahu spoke on the phone to the guard and vowed to bring him home.

“I assured the security guard that we will see to bringing him back to Israel. We are holding ongoing contacts with security and government officials in Amman, on all levels, to bring the incident to a close as quickly as possible. We are doing this responsibly and with dedication,” said Mr Netanyahu.

The latest crisis came as bilateral ties were already strained following Israel’s decision to erect metal detectors at the entrance to site in Jerusalem’s Old City known to Jews as the Temple Mount and revered by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif Noble Sanctuary, the site of the al-Aqsa mosque.

New security measures

Jordan is the custodian of the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem and on Friday thousands rallied in Amman to condemn the Israeli actions.

Israel enacted the new security measures after two border police officers were killed at the site by Israeli Arabs who used guns that had been smuggled into the al-Aqsa mosque.

The step prompted widespread riots from Palestinians who accused Israel of trying to alter the status quo at the flashpoint holy site. Over the weekend four Palestinians were killed during clashes with Israeli security forces and three Jewish settlers were killed by a knife-wielding Palestinian.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas suspended all contacts with Israel, including security co-operation, leading to the fear that events were spiralling out of control.

The killing of the settlers, all members of the same family who had gathered for the traditional Jewish Sabbath meal, made it almost inconceivable that the Israeli leadership would be willing to remove the metal detectors.