In an interview with Breitbart Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, the chief preacher at the Al Aqsa Mosque, declared Israel’s decision to remove metal detectors from entrances to the site a “victory.”
Sabri, who also serves as director of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem, warned, however, that “the struggle still isn’t over.” He was referring to the purported struggle for control of the Temple Mount.
Following over a week of violent clashes, Israel on Tuesday removed metal detectors from the entrance to the Mount, opting instead for high-tech cameras.
Protest leaders, including top Palestinian officials, claimed the metal detectors were part of an Israeli conspiracy to hamper Muslim worship on the Mount. Israel’s new security measures were put into place in direct response to the Palestinian terrorist attack at the Mount two weeks ago in which three assailants somehow smuggled weapons onto the site.
“The latest understandings with regards to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the removal of the electric metal detectors is a step that smells like victory,” Sabri told Breitbart Jerusalem, adding, “we will continue to follow developments with the goal of ensuring that Israeli won’t make any new steps and we will oppose any new steps.”
According to Sabri, “Israel was forced to remove these detectors after it failed to achieve its goal of imposing a change of the situation on the Muslims and the worshipers.”
Sabri, who was formerly the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, said that from the perspective of Muslims and the Palestinians, the “confrontation” still hasn’t ended despite the removal of the electric metal detectors “and despite the fact that the Jews have climbed down from the tree.”
“Despite the fact that the Jews removed the electric metal detectors, we are alert and will continue to protect the Al Aqsa Mosque,” he said. “We will remove the marks of Israeli aggression from the mosque and continue to monitor the moves of the Israelis. So as far as we’re concerned, the struggle still isn’t over.”
Sheikh Sabri refused to say what the response of the Waqf or local Muslim leaders might be to the security cameras that are being considered as an alternative to the metal detectors. The Waqf is the Jordanian-controlled Islamic custodian of the Temple Mount.
Sabri said that there will be no cameras inside the mosques “and we understand that the placement of the cameras around the mosque won’t begin now, but in a few months. We will formulate our position at the appropriate time.”
The sheikh said that until the completion of consultations with Waqf leaders and the Palestinian leadership, Muslims will be called upon to continue praying outside the Al Aqsa Mosque.
“The Waqf’s engineers and technicians are currently checking what the Israelis have done to the site, what steps they took and what mechanisms they installed without our knowledge and until we know the opinion of the technical experts we won’t enter to pray inside the mosque. But we will continue to pray at its gates,” Sabri said. There is no known information that Israel made any changes on the Temple Mount itself.
“Our technicians and engineers are sweeping inside and around the mosque and we are waiting for their final report regarding the extent of the destruction the Israelis sowed inside as hundreds of Israeli soldiers and policemen took over inside the mosque and damaged it,” Sabri claimed.
Sheikh Sabri emphasized that in the past two weeks, “The Arabs and the Muslims proved that they aren’t giving up on Al Aqsa, and proved that they aren’t prepared to accept any change at the site not made by the Muslim leadership of the complex.”
“We saw the masses, we saw the popular recruitment and what happened this last week as very encouraging. It was even above our expectations. The mutual responsibility was very impressive.”
UPDATE: On Thursday, after Israel agreed to remove all newly installed security measures, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Hussein, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas both ended the boycott of prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque and called on Muslim worshippers to ascend the site as per normal.