Israeli Public Defense Minister Gilad Erdan decided to establish a 200-strong special police force in Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, according to Israeli media.
"The Temple Mount Unit will be equipped with advanced technology and will gather intelligence in order to protect visitors to the holy site," Erdan was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post daily.
"The unit will include approximately 200 policemen, in which 100 will be specially recruited to the police in the course of the next year," he said.
The Israeli minister said the plan came "as a result of conclusions drawn" following a shootout on the flashpoint compound in June in which two Israeli policemen were killed. Three Palestinians were also killed in the gun battle.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which the Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. In a move never recognized by the international community, it annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the Jewish state's "eternal and undivided" capital.
The Temple Mount is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Palestinians fearing Israel may one day seek to assert further control over it. It is located in east Jerusalem which was occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community. It is considered the third holiest site in Islam and the most sacred site for Jews. Jews are allowed to visit the compound but cannot pray there to avoid provoking tensions.
The site has been at the center of recent tensions after Israel installed, and then removed, metal detectors there following the deadly shooting of two Israeli policemen. Muslims administer the compound, home to the Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques, while Jews can visit but not pray there.
Anger has spilled across the West Bank since Israel shut Al-Aqsa Mosque compound following a deadly shootout on July 14. The site is venerated by Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and Jews, who call it the Temple Mount. The mosque was reopened after two days, with Israel installing metal detectors and cameras at its gates.
Protests and deadly unrest erupted in the days after the measures were installed, with clashes breaking out around the compound in Jerusalem's Old City, in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.
Seven Palestinians were killed as a result of the clashes, in addition to dozens of wounded. Three Israelis were also killed in an attack in a settlement on the West Bank.
The mosque was reopened after two days, with Israel installing metal detectors and cameras at its gates. Despite calls from the Islamic world to not to offend worshippers and return to the status quo, Israel refused to remove the detectors, claiming the security measures were similar to procedures taken at other holy sites around the world. But facing international criticism and pressure, Israel's Security Cabinet decided to remove the metal detectors. A statement released after the meeting said a new surveillance system using "smart checks" based on advanced technology would be put in place.
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