Thousands of Muslim worshippers rushed to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque in chaotic scenes on Thursday after Israel backed down in the face of 10 days of often-violent unrest and removed security measures it had installed at the sacred site.
At least 37 Palestinians were injured as Israeli security forces used sound bombs to control crowds of worshippers surging forth once the last gate Muslims are allowed to use to enter Al-Aqsa was opened after a stand-off of several hours.
Israel’s removal of the security measures, including metal detectors and CCTV cameras, marked a significant climbdown by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While Palestinians celebrated, political opponents accused him of weakness.
The dispute began after Israel installed metal detectors at Muslim entrances to Al-Aqsa compound, also known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, following the July 14 killing of two Israeli policemen by Arab gunmen who had concealed weapons inside the walled plaza.
Earlier on Thursday, Muslim elders declared themselves satisfied that Israeli authorities had removed all the new security measures - mainly metal detectors and CCTV cameras - and reverted to the set-up before July 14.