Updated on July 24 at 6:33 p.m. ET
Of all the issues involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, none is more sensitive than the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital. But the delicate status quo surrounding the holy city has been threatened in recent weeks following the installation of new security measures at the entrance of the Old City’s holy compound, culminating in the biggest crisis the site has seen in years.
It started with metal detectors. Two days after a July 14th incident in which two Israeli policeman were fatally shot by three Palestinian citizens of Israel outside the compound—known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews—Israel installed new security cameras and metal detectors at its entrances. Though metal detectors have long been used at the compound’s entrances for non-Muslims, they’ve never been used at the entrances for Muslim worshippers.
The installation of the metal detectors prompted immediate backlash from Palestinian leaders, who characterized the move as a violation of sovereignty rather than one aimed at security. It also resulted in widespread protests throughout the city, with thousands of people opting to pray on the streets surrounding the Old City rather than pass through the metal detectors to get to Al Aqsa mosque, which stands on the compound’s site. Some of the protests turned violent, with clashes between protesters and Israeli authorities resulting in hundreds of injuries and the deaths of at least three Palestinians.
The violence hasn’t been confined to Jerusalem. On Friday, three Israelis were killed in a stabbing attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish. The assailant, a 20-year-old Palestinian, wrote in a Facebook post he was motivated by the ongoing conflict over access to Al Aqsa. In Jordan, which serves as the custodian of the compound and with whom Israel has a peace treaty, two Jordanians were fatally shot Sunday at the heavily guarded Israeli embassy in Amman after one of the men stabbed an Israeli security guard. Though Jordanian authorities sought to question the embassy guard, Israel had denied Amman’s request, citing diplomatic immunity.