The aftermath of closing Al-Aqsa Mosque on July, 2017

  • Posted on: 8 August 2017
  • By: laila Akel

The security situation in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque was elevated since July 14th 2017, when Israeli forces closed Al-Aqsa Mosque for two days after armed clashes erupted between three Palestinians and Israeli police in Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound 0.35 km SE of the Old City / Jerusalem. Which led to the death of the three Palestinians and two Israeli police officers. Israeli forces increased their measures in the area and closed all entrances and exits to the Old City of Jerusalem including Qalandiya CP 6.24 km SE of Ramallah, and, for the first time since 1969, closed Al-Aqsa Mosque and banned prayers. Israeli forces detained most of the Mosque’s Arab security that work under the Jordanian authorities and confiscated the keys to Lion’s Gate and Council Gate 0.15 km NE the Old City, as well as detaining the Mufti.

Hallamish Settlement Attack

On the eve of July 21st, a stabbing attack was carried out by a Palestinian leading to the death of three settlers in Hallamish settlement 12.57 km NW of Ramallah. The Palestinian Omar Al-Abed infiltrated the settlement fence, entered a house and stabbed four Israeli settlers killing three and injuring one. Another settler neighboring the house opened fire towards the Palestinian and injured him; afterwards Israeli forces arrived at the scene and arrested the Palestinian.

Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Omar’s house to be demolished, and Israeli forces raided Al-Abed’s town (Kaubar 9.46 km N of Ramallah), and clashed with Palestinians in addition to closing the entrances and exits to the town. ISF arrested Al-Abed’s brother after  searching and measuring the house for demolition.
Israeli forces also arrested 29 Palestinians in Kaubar, including nine members of Hamas.

Security coordination suspension

Following Friday’s clashes, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared that the Palestinian Authority will freeze all contacts with the Israeli side. The statement was made during a meeting with senior Palestinian officials to discuss the latest developments and tension in Jerusalem over Al-Aqsa Mosque. President Abbas said all connections will be cut until all Israeli measures in Jerusalem are stopped and metal detectors are removed.

Palestinian sources speculated that the security coordination will still be in effect as President Abbas often referred to it as sacred and must never be stopped. Israeli sources later declared all contacts including the security coordination were in fact suspended. Israeli sources commented on July 23rd that freezing the security coordination came as a surprise, as Israeli officials expected all other contacts to be cut except for it. This is the first time the security coordination has been suspended since Abbas’ presidency in 2006.

Sources have reported that Israeli and Palestinian security officials have met days after July 14th and prior to the President’s announcement, in an attempt to stop the installation of metal detectors. According to Walla news, the Palestinian Authority was disappointed when metal detectors were installed after it was promised that no changes will be made in Al-Aqsa Mosque after the shootout on July 14th. Israeli sources stated that it seemed the Palestinian Authority was enraged by the break of promise.

Conversely, Palestinian analysts believe the security coordination has not stopped as it greatly affects the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli authorities would not allow.

Disputes between Shabak and Israeli Police

Following the armed clashes on July 14th which led to the death of three Palestinians and two Israeli police members, a former officer in Israeli Police accused Shabak (Shin Bet) of not taking responsibility for its intelligence failure to detect the attack in Al-Aqsa Mosque, instead lets the Police take the blame.

According to the officer, the attack’s details indicate a strongly organized one where the Palestinians received help before the attack and were supposed to receive help after it. The Shabak’s inability to detect that threat is considered a failure; he continued that the Shabak is quick to lay blame on the Police for letting the Palestinians approach the Mosque area.

The official stated, referring to the intelligence failure, “that the case wasn’t as if three men in a restaurant have decided on conducting an attack, but three who were able to attain weapons, made a preparatory turn around the Mosque area and were able to enter the compound with these weapons, all of which the Shabak had missed.”

According to the officer, many other Police officers believe the Police is taking a misplaced heat since July 14th, however are afraid to express their thoughts because the Chief of Police is a former officer in Shabak, and they fear criticizing the Shabak will be taken personally.  No comment was released from the Shin Bet, however a source has stated that for every attack that actually takes place, there are ten others that don’t, due to the Shabak.

On July 19th, the Shin Bet advised to remove the metal detectors, in order to contain the situation and avoid sparking more outrage by Palestinians, in an internal debate with the Ministry of Internal Security and the Police. However, the Police refused the suggestion; for the removal will cost the Police to lose its grip over Jerusalem. In addition, the removal of the metal detectors would mean the Palestinians have triumphed.  

According to Israeli sources, the Shin Bet has failed to detect the attack on July 21st attack on Hallamish settlement, as well, especially that Al-Abed posted his will on Facebook more than an hour before the attack. Israeli forces have long monitored Palestinians on social media feeds and posts, and arrested many on the suspicion of attempting to carry out an attack based on their social media posts. However, the Shin Bet was unable to detect the attack due to the overflow of posts and feeds on social media during that week. Israeli forces also failed to detect the breach in the settlement, where according to investigation, it took Omar Al-Abed 14 minutes to carry out the attack after cutting the settlement fence and setting off the alarm.

The Jordanian-Israeli Crisis

On July 23rd a shooting was reported in front of a residential building used by the Israeli Embassy’s staff in Amman , the capital of Jordan, resulting in the death of two Jordanians and the injury of one Israeli guard. On July 24th, Israeli foreign Minister said the guard shot and killed the Jordanians in an altercation. Jordanian Police said that the Jordanians were two workers from a furniture company who entered the building for maintenance. Israeli sources stated that the guard killed a 17-year old Jordanian while the other who is the owner of the building was shot by mistake and later died.

Later on the incident, the police released a statement: "We have started a large-scale investigation into the incident and ordered the prosecutor general to look at all the details”.

The Jordanian Directorate of general security stated that the two Jordanians had authorization and entered the building for maintenance. Protests were held by Jordanians in Amman denouncing the killing of the two civilians and demanded cutting ties with Israeli authorities.

The Jordanian government stated that it was seeking to question the Israeli guard while Israeli authorities stressed his diplomatic immunity. Israeli sources have reported that the guard was attacked by the Jordanian with a screwdriver after a dispute erupted between the two.

On July 24th, the head of Shabak returned after a meeting in Jordan, and the Embassy’s crew, including the guard who shot and killed the two jordanians, left Amman and went back to the Israeli controlled areas. The Israeli presidential office said the crew’s return was the fruit of the Israeli-Jordanian cooperation.

The sources added that the Israeli authorities refused the  interrogation of the guard, but allowed for Jordanian officer to examine the embassy building after which the crew left.
Thousands of Jordanians participated in the Jordanian man’s funeral demanding the guard to be punished and the outcome of the investigation to be revealed as well as to close the Israeli Embassy in Amman.
Rage in the Jordanian Parliament was reported where members of the Parliament denounced the way the Government handled the situation while others refused the allegations of a “criminal incident” or that the Jordanian attacked the guard.

For the full Semi-annual report of 2017 contact us