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With New Security Measures, Tensions Remain High In Jerusalem's Old City


We're in Detroit this weekend, broadcasting from member station WDET, where we have been reporting on and offering reflections about the 1967 civil disturbances here which were among the most destructive of the 1960s. Dozens were killed. And thousands of buildings were destroyed, scarring the landscape of this city to this day. We'll hear more reflections later this hour, but we're going to start the program overseas in Israel, which has signaled that it's considering new security arrangements at a Jerusalem holy site that's been at the center of heightened tensions. Israel installed metal detectors at the site after a deadly shooting, but Palestinians have protested that move, and there's been more violence. For more, we turn to NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Daniel, thanks so much for joining us.


MARTIN: So tell us about these security measures and why they are sparking this kind of tension.

ESTRIN: Well, it started a little over a week ago. Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel killed policemen at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount. And Israel put up metal detectors after that to check Muslim worshippers, which Israel says is a common security procedure at shrines around the world. But this is a Muslim-run holy site. Palestinians say Israel was taking control of the site, so Palestinians have been boycotting the holy site. They've been praying instead in the streets. And that has led to more tensions.

MARTIN: As you've seen some of these tensions up close in the last few days. Can you just tell us what you've seen?

ESTRIN: Yeah. On Friday, I attended a prayer on a main street in East Jerusalem. After it ended, some Palestinians started chanting, with spirit and blood, we will redeem the Al-Aqsa Mosque. And I saw Israeli police firing stun grenades at the crowd. I saw Palestinians throw objects at police. This is what I tape recorded.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).


ESTRIN: It was a pretty chaotic event. And then also that day in Jerusalem and in the West Bank, three Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli forces. And hours later, according to Israeli officials, a Palestinian broke into a house in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank and fatally stabbed a father and his two adult children. Today, I attended their funeral. There was a brother-in-law of the family who gave a eulogy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: He said, "it's time to end the Arab's hope for a country of their own in the land of Israel." And he cried out, "God of vengeance, appear." So things are really, really tense here.

MARTIN: And to that end, we've heard pleas from the pope, from the United Nations for calm. Is there anything being done to calm the situation? Israel set up these new security cameras today at the Jerusalem holy site. What does that intended to accomplish?

ESTRIN: Israel is sensitive to the fact that any perception that it's trying to take over this site can spark fury across the Arab and Muslim world. The U.N. Security Council is meeting tomorrow to discuss this. The security Cabinet in Israel is reportedly meeting this evening as well to discuss the situation and to discuss possible security alternatives.

MARTIN: Is there a compromise that the Palestinians might be willing to accept that's been offered to this point?

ESTRIN: Well, that's the question. Nothing has been officially offered. And there are many parties involved here. There's Jordan, which oversees religious affairs at the site. Palestinian leadership is holding talks with a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Morocco. But today, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, clarified that he has frozen security cooperation with Israel, which is something that Israel sees as vital. And this could contribute to even more tensions and violence.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting from Jerusalem. Daniel, thanks so much for speaking with us.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: July 22, 2017 at 11:00 PM CDT
An earlier version of the teaser said an attack at a Jerusalem holy site left six Palestinians and Israelis dead, leading Israel to install metal detectors. In fact, three attackers killed two Israeli police officers before being shot and killed by Israeli forces in that July 14 incident.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.