By: MARSHALL THOMPSON
JERUSALEM — The Israel Antiquities Authority is considering
broadcasting real-time, 24-hour video from a contentious Jerusalem holy
site in a bid to allay Muslim fears the shrine will be harmed by repair
work, an official said Thursday.
Muslim leaders ridiculed the idea, and Israeli police were on
heightened alert before Friday Muslim prayers at the site, imposing
travel restrictions and planning for a helicopter to hover overhead.
Israel says it needs to replace a centuries-old earthen ramp leading to
the hilltop compound known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as
the Noble Sanctuary, which was damaged heavily in a 2004 snowstorm. It
has promised the work would not harm Islamic shrines at the site, some
60 yards away, but those assurances have not calmed Muslim outrage over
Lawmaker Israel Hasson said he proposed installing cameras so “all the
Arab world would be able to see everything that goes on there.”
The Antiquities Authority said it was looking into how much the Webcast
“The Antiquities Authority is looking into the possibility of
installing Internet cameras … to show that we are working with full
transparency, and to show that we aren't digging — not under Temple
Mount, not on the way to Temple Mount and far from Temple Mount.”
Adnan Husseini, chairman of the Waqf, the Muslim trust that oversees
the complex, rejected the proposal as “ridiculous.”
“This is a historical place, and their machines are destroying it,”
Husseini said. “The Israelis have to stop the work and let the Waqf do
The ramp leads to the outer wall of the hilltop compound. But the Waqf
claims jurisdiction over it because it touches the mosque complex.
The hilltop — home to the Al Aqsa mosque and the golden-capped Dome of
the Rock shrine — is Islam's third-holiest shrine. Muslims believe the
Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from the site. It also is the site
of the original retaining walls of the second Jewish temple, including
the Jewish shrine called the Western Wall.
UNESCO criticized the renovation and called on Israel “to suspend any
action that could endanger the spirit of mutual respect until such time
as the will to dialogue prevails once again.”
The eight-month construction project has provoked small-scale protests
since it began Tuesday.
On Thursday, about 100 Palestinians briefly blocked an entrance to the
Old City, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. The protesters
dispersed peacefully after police ordered them to do so, Rosenfeld said.
But Raed Salah, a leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, warned of a
religious war as he scuffled with police outside the shrine Wednesday.
Salah, who was briefly detained for police questioning, declared Friday
“Al Aqsa Day” and called on Israeli Muslims and Palestinians to attend
weekly prayers at the shrine.
Police issued a 10-day restraining order barring Salah from entering
the Old City.
Israeli police remained on heightened alert Thursday, with about 2,000
officers deployed throughout the Old City and nearby areas in Arab east
Rosenfeld said that at least as many officers would be deployed Friday,
the Muslim holy day, when mosque attendance is at its highest. Police
said they would put up roadblocks in the area and fly over the site in
Rosenfeld said an order barring West Bank Palestinians from the Al Aqsa
compound would be extended to Friday prayers.
Since construction began, access has been restricted to Israeli Arabs
and east Jerusalem residents over 45.
Israel has controlled the compound since 1967, when it captured east
Jerusalem from Jordan, but has left its administration largely to
Jordan and the Palestinians.
When Israel opened a tunnel alongside the compound in 1996, it touched
off clashes that killed 80 people. In 2000, when then-opposition leader
Ariel Sharon visited the site, the ensuing riots were followed by years
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