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Jerusalem’s holy site crisis

Here is a timeline of events in a two-week crisis at a sensitive holy site in the Old City of annexed east Jerusalem, marked by deadly clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli security forces.

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Attack and mosque shutdown

On July 14, three Arab Israelis exit Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and shoot dead two police officers stationed nearby, before being shot dead by security forces.

Israel, which says the attackers smuggled guns into the compound and emerged from it to attack the officers, then takes the highly unusual decision to shut down the site.

The decision means Muslim worshippers cannot attend the all-important weekly Friday prayers at Islam’s third holy site, triggering anger from Muslims and Jordan, the site’s official custodian.

Metal detectors

On July 15, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces the site will open the next day and security forces will install metal detectors and surveillance cameras to prevent further attacks.

But when the compound opens on July 16 with metal detectors in place, Muslim worshippers refuse to enter due to the new security measures, which they perceive as a means for Israel to assert further control over the site.

Prayers are instead held in the streets leading to the site.

Clashes

From July 16, sporadic clashes break out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in east Jerusalem, but also in the occupied West Bank.

On July 20, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joins the Palestinian leadership in urging Israel to remove the metal detectors.

Friday eruption

Ahead of Friday prayers on July 21, Israeli police close off Jerusalem’s Old City to men under 50.

Mass protest prayers are held around the Old City and demonstrations there and in the West Bank lead to clashes.

In two days, five Palestinians are killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces. Three Israeli civilians are stabbed and fatally wounded in a West Bank settlement.

New security measures

Early July 25, following intense pressure from the international community which fears an escalation of violence, the Israeli government decides to stop using metal detectors at the entrance to the compound. It says the detectors will be replaced by “advanced technologies and other means”.

Early on July 26, the metal detectors are withdrawn. Muslim authorities, however, maintain their boycott of the holy site.

A government source in Amman says Jordan has come to an agreement with Israel under which an embassy worker accused of killing two Jordanians after being attacked at the Israeli embassy on July 23 will be allowed to return home.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas announces that cooperation with Israel will remain frozen.

Clashes break out between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli security forces around the Old City, in which 13 Palestinians are injured.

Turkey’s Erdogan urges all Muslims to “visit” and “protect” Jerusalem.

U-turn

On July 27, Israeli police say they have withdrawn the new security measures.

Railings and scaffolding where cameras were previously mounted are removed in early morning from the entrance to the compound.

Palestinians end their boycott for the first time in two weeks, streaming into the Haram al-Sharif compound for afternoon prayers.

Jordan welcomes Israel’s removal of the new security measures as “an essential step towards calm”.

However, clashes erupt between Israeli police and Palestinians at the site, with the Palestinian Red Crescent reporting 46 people wounded.

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