Israeli Police Removes Waqf-Installed Surveillance Cameras near Al-Aqsa Mosque

JERUSALEM, October 26, 2015 (WAFA) – Israeli police removed surveillance cameras that had been installed by the Islamic Religious Endowments Authority near one of the compound’s main gates, said Islamic Religious Endowments (Waqf) Department.

Speaking to WAFA, Sheikh ‘Azzam al-Tamimi, Head of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem, said the Israeli police removed all Waqf-installed surveillance cameras in the vicinity of al-Maghariba (Moroccan) Gate leading to the Mosque’s yards.

Al-Tamimi claimed that by removing the surveillance cameras, Israel is attempting to “distort the truth”.

The Waqf Department vehemently condemned in a press release “Israeli police’s interference with the Waqf’s work” and said such interference indicates that Israel is interested in the installation of surveillance cameras, not for the purpose of providing evidence for truth and justice, but to serve their own interests.

This came as groups of Jewish settlers, protected by heavily-guarded police, forced their way into the flashpoint holy site via the Moroccan Gate, after weeks of ongoing clashes between Palestinians and Israeli authorities all across the occupied Territory and within Israel.

Police continued to impose restrictions on Palestinian worshipers’ access into the holy site, withholding youth and women’s identity cards until they leave the Mosque and preventing about 60 women, who were added to a black list, from entering the site.

This came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he was mulling revoking the identity cards of Palestinians living in Jerusalem’s neighborhoods, which are separated from the occupied city by the illegal Israeli Separation Wall.

If implemented the plan will target about 100,000 Palestinians living in refugee camps, such as Shu‘fat, Kafr Aqab and ‘Anata.

The plan to revoke the identity cards of Palestinians in Jerusalem came about two weeks after the Israeli cabinet approved a series of tough measures against Palestinians in Jerusalem following the spate of attacks and clashes in Israel and occupied Palestinian Territories.

The cabinet has decided to impose a lockdown on East Jerusalem neighborhoods and boost police and soldiers reinforcements across the West Bank and along the Gaza border following the recent rising tension.

Alleged knife attacks against Israelis, fatal shootings of Palestinians by Israeli police and settlers, settler rampage and Palestinians’ demonstrations across the West Bank have become almost a daily occurrence since the first of October 2015, sparking a diplomatic scramble to defuse the situation.

The series of meetings held by US Secretary of State John Kerry with key stakeholders marked the peak of this diplomatic scramble.

During his meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman as well as with Netanyahu during a meeting on Thursday in Berlin, Kerry reportedly proposed the installation of surveillance cameras inside the Mosque compound.

Netanyahu was reported in Palestinian daily newspapers and Israeli media as expressing his country’s “interest” in the installation of such cameras purportedly to allay concerns that Israel has been attempting to change the status quo.

US Secretary of State, Kerry,  said some of the proposed steps to calm the violent unrest include the deployment of round-the-clock video monitoring, in addition to Israel’s reaffirmation of Jordan’s role; which is responsible for Jerusalem’s holy sites in line with a 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

Kerry said Israel would maintain the status quo, allowing Muslims to pray and non-Muslims to visit and that Israeli and Jordanian authorities will meet about bolstering security.

However, Palestinians were reported as expressing their doubts about Kerry’s speech on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, describing it as “an additional trap”, as well as about Netanyahu’s pledges to maintain the status quo, saying he is “manipulating” the definition of the status quo.

PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Saeb Erekat reportedly said Netanyahu’s statements were “only words and not concrete actions”.

Other Palestinian officials, namely Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Shaath indicated that all efforts to defuse and de-escalate tensions are doomed to fail without political prospects to definitively end the occupation.”