JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli and Jordanian officials said Tuesday that new surveillance cameras should be installed within days at the walled Jerusalem shrine at the epicenter of Israeli-Palestinian violence, with the goal of streaming the footage live on the Internet for maximum transparency.
The idea to install the cameras emerged during separate talks late last week between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the three sides with a stake at the shrine — Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian self-rule government. Kerry was looking for a way to lower tensions, but it’s not clear if video cameras will suffice.
The current round of violence began in mid-September, triggered in part by heated disputes over the Jerusalem shrine.
The compound is revered by both Muslims and Jews and a lightning rod for the clashing national narratives of Israelis and Palestinians. Jordan, which controlled the site before Israel captured it in the 1967 Mideast war, serves as the custodian of the Muslim-administered site.
Under decades-old arrangements, Jews are allowed to visit, but not to pray at the shrine.
However, the number of Jewish visitors has doubled in the past five years, accompanied by statements from Jewish groups and several leading Israeli politicians demanding prayers at the site.
Such statements have fueled Palestinian fears that Israel is trying to expand its presence at the shrine. Israel adamantly denies such allegations, saying they amount to incitement to violence.
In mid-September, tensions started to soar, coinciding with an increase in the number of Jewish visitors during a period of Jewish holidays. Clashes erupted at the shrine between young Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli security forces.
The violence quickly spread. In all, 11 Israelis have been killed, mostly in stabbings, while 54 Palestinians, including 32 said by Israel to be attackers, have been killed by Israeli fire.
Under the compromise brokered by Kerry, video cameras are to be installed inside the 37-acre (15-hectare) walled platform to help defuse tensions.
The details are to be worked out between officials from the site’s administrator — the Islamic Trust, or Waqf — and Israeli authorities, said a senior Jordanian government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with briefing regulations.
He said he expects the cameras to be installed in “days, not weeks.”
He said both Muslim clerics and Israeli officials will for now monitor the images, but that “the ultimate goal is for the footage to be seen on the Internet, by everyone.”
Israeli officials confirmed the plan, and in a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it hopes to start the process “as soon as possible.”
Israel has welcomed the plan, saying the cameras will prove it is doing nothing wrong and expose violent activities by Palestinian protesters.
The Palestinians have given the plan a cool reception, saying Israel will use the cameras to arrest people and complaining that deeper issues have been ignored. The Palestinians say the violence is the result of years of Israeli military occupation and a lack of hope for gaining independence after years of failed peace efforts.
At a Jerusalem news conference, Abdel Azeem Salhab, chairman of the Waqf council, accused Israel of trying to “Judaize” the mosque.
“Israel wants cameras for its own purposes and this will not happen,” he said.
On Tuesday, an Israeli hospital said Richard Lakin, a dual Israeli-American citizen critically wounded in a Palestinian attack two weeks ago had died of his wounds.
Lakin, 76, was originally from Newton, Massachusetts, and was a longtime principal in Glastonbury, Connecticut, according to his Facebook page and a report in the Hartford Courant.
Micah Avni said his father was an educator who worked for coexistence between Arabs and Jews after moving to Israel from the U.S. in 1984. He was an elementary school principal in the U.S. and taught English in mixed classes of Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem, the son said.
In the 1960s, Lakin was active in the civil rights movement in the U.S., marching with Martin Luther King and bringing students from Boston to the south for sit-ins, Avni said.
“He was a big believer in people and in peace and in being kind and never hurt a soul in his life,” Avni said.
Later Tuesday, Israel’s military said soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians who stabbed a soldier at a bus stop in the West Bank. It was the latest violent incident in a month of Palestinian attacks.
Laub reported from Amman, Jordan. Associated Press writer Rawhi Razim contributed to this report from Jerusalem.