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Arab League to hold urgent meeting over Jerusalem tensions

Jordan’s foreign minister calls to remove metal detectors at Temple Mount, says longstanding status quo must be respected

 July 24, 2017, 4:20 am
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, listens to UN envoy for Libya Martin Kobler, during their meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, listens to UN envoy for Libya Martin Kobler, during their meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

The Arab League will hold an urgent meeting on Thursday to discuss the escalating crisis surrounding Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, amid widespread unrest in the Israeli capital and the West Bank.

The meeting was called by Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who on Sunday discussed the tensions with his Norwegian, French, German and Swedish counterparts.

In a series of tweets, Safadi said Jordan was working to “protect [and] restore calm” to the holy site in Jerusalem.

He said the metal detectors must be removed and the “historic status quo respected.”

An official from the Arab League told Jordan’s Petra news agency that coordination with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was underway on the issue of Jerusalem.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi speaks during a joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in the Jordanian capital Amman on May 14, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / Khalil MAZRAAWI)

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi speaks during a joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in the Jordanian capital Amman on May 14, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / Khalil MAZRAAWI)

Deadly clashes have rocked Jerusalem since Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount. The move followed a July 14 terror attack in which three armed Arab-Israelis emerged from the holy site and shot dead two police officers standing at the Lions Gate, an access point to the compound, using guns they had smuggled into the holy site.

Palestinians view the new security measures as an Israeli attempt to assert further control over the site, the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. Israel says the detectors are necessary to prevent another incident in which illegal weapons are taken into the compound and turned against Israeli forces.

Earlier on Sunday, the Arab League accused Israel of “playing with fire” by implementing the new measures at the site, saying that “Jerusalem is a red line,” and that “no Arab or Muslim will accept violations” against the city’s holy sites.

In a statement, Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit denounced the Israeli government’s “adventurism” and said its moves could trigger a “crisis with the Arab and Muslim world.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday also warned of intervention by the Muslim international community over the metal detectors Israel installed at access gates to the Mount and ensuing clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops.

Speaking to reporters at Ataturk Airport before heading to Saudi Arabia, Erdogan said that the Muslim world would not remain silent over what he called “violations” at the Temple compound.

Erdogan urged Israel to act in accordance with international law and “human values” while avoiding use of violence, the Turkish Hurriyet daily reported.

On Sunday evening, Israel’s security cabinet met to discuss ways to de-escalate tensions.

The cabinet was said to be reviewing the continued use of the metal detectors.

Clashes between security forces and violent protesters in East Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday and Saturday left four Palestinians dead. A fifth Palestinian protester was killed Saturday when a petrol bomb he was hurling at security forces detonated prematurely.

Later Friday, three Israelis were stabbed to death in the West Bank by a 19-year-old Palestinian terrorist.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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