On Friday, two Druze Israeli police officers were murdered at the hands of three Arab Israeli men. The assailants shot the officers as they guarded the Lion’s Gate entrance to Old City Jerusalem, which houses the Western Wall — the holiest place where Jews can pray.
To complicate matters more, the scene of the attack is also home to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is considered the third holiest place for Muslims.
“An incident like this, to the best of my memory, is unprecedented — the use of live weapons and firing from within the Temple Mount complex,” Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told the Los Angeles Times. “The terrorists desecrated the holiness of the mount.”
The attackers were shot and killed, but in an effort to secure the area, Israeli officials closed it off to Muslim worshipers and tourists.
Thanks to a rare phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the site was reopened on Sunday to Muslims and on Monday, Jews were allowed in.
However, the tensions were far from over and the outrage over the closure turned to outrage over a new security measure. At the gates of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Old City, worshippers were forced to enter through metal detectors if they wanted to go inside.
According to the New York Post, on Monday morning, the Jordanian Islamic Waqf Authority, a committee in charge of managing the religious affairs in the area, called for all Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.”
The committee encouraged Muslims to still visit al-Aqsa but to pray just outside the metal detectors instead of going inside.
Sheikh Safwat Freij, head of the Al Aqsa Association, told the Times of Israel, “The mosque is just for prayer. We are against violence and against politics at the mosque.” However, the weapons used in Friday’s attack had been smuggled into the compound and after the attack, the assailants fled back into the mosque.
Non-Muslims use a separate entrance — the Mughrabi Gate — which has had metal detectors long before Sunday. Jerusalem police commissioner Yoram Halevy told the New York Post “this is not terrible” and the security measure is common throughout the world:
“When I go shopping on Friday I pass through a detector at the mall,” Halevy said. “We see them everywhere they have become a part of our lives.”
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Hamas Spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanua praised “the guerrilla attack in Jerusalem” and called it a “legitimate right” to resist the “brutal occupation.”