Israel removes metal detectors from holy site entrance

Israel began removing metal detectors from entrances to a major Jerusalem shrine early Tuesday morning to defuse a crisis over the site that angered the Muslim world and triggered some of the worst Israeli-Palestinian clashes in years.

The Israeli security Cabinet had met for a second straight day Monday to find an alternative to the metal detectors, which were installed following a deadly Palestinian attack at the holy site.

Associated Press photos showed a worker dismantling one of the devices at Lions Gate before 2:00 a.m.

“The Security Cabinet accepted the recommendation of all of the security bodies to incorporate security measures based on advanced technologies (“smart checks”) and other measures instead of metal detectors,” Israel announced Tuesday morning.

It said the measure will “ensure the security of visitors and worshippers” at the holy site and in Jerusalem’s Old City. It added that police will increase its forces in the area until the new security measures are in place.

Israeli media earlier reported high resolution cameras capable of detecting hidden objects would be deployed.

Israel erected the metal detectors after Arab gunmen killed two policemen from inside the shrine, holy to Muslims and Jews, earlier this month. The move incensed the Muslim world and triggered violence.

The fate of the site is an emotional issue at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Even the smallest perceived change to delicate arrangements pertaining to the site sparks tensions.

Just a few hours earlier, Israel and Jordan resolved a diplomatic standoff after a day of high-level negotiations that ended with the evacuation of Israeli Embassy staff from their base in Jordan to Israel.

The crisis had been triggered by a shooting Sunday in which an Israeli embassy guard killed two Jordanians after one attacked him with a screwdriver. Jordan initially said the guard could only leave after an investigation, while Israel said he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

The crisis was resolved after a phone call late Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

Media reports had said the deal could see the embassy security guard released in exchange for the removal of the metal detectors.

The 37-acre walled compound in Jerusalem is the third holiest site of Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. It is also the holiest site of Judaism, revered as the place where biblical Temples once stood.

Jordan is the Muslim custodian of the site.

Netanyahu and Jordan’s king discuss the shrine in their phone call, Jordan’s state news agency Petra said.

The king stressed the need to “remove the measures taken by the Israeli side since the recent crisis broke out” and to agree on steps that would prevent another escalation in the future, Petra said.

Earlier, the head of Israel’s domestic Shin Bet security agency had met with officials in Jordan to resolve the crisis, the worst between the two countries in recent years. Jordan and Israel have a peace agreement and share security interests, but frequently disagree over policies at the shrine.

Netanyahu’s office said the Israeli-Jordanian contacts were conducted in an atmosphere of cooperation.

As part of intensifying diplomatic efforts, President Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday. It was a high-level, on-the-ground attempt by the Trump administration to end the standoff between Israel and the Muslim world.

“I thank President Trump for directing Jared Kushner and dispatching Jason Greenblatt to help with our efforts to bring the Israeli embassy staff home quickly. I thank King Abdullah as well for our close cooperation,” said Netanyahu.

Muslim leaders alleged Israel was trying to expand its control at the site under the guise of security by installing the metal detectors, a claim Israel has denied. The tensions have led to mass prayer protests and deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Israel has said the metal detectors are a needed security measure to prevent future attacks.

At one of the gates to the shrine, Israel set up metal railings of the type typically used for crowd control, to create orderly lines.

A media report has suggested that such railings could be part of a compromise that would enable the removal of the metal detectors.

Netanyahu’s government faced growing domestic criticism in recent days, with some commentators saying it made hasty decisions affecting the most volatile spot of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the United Nations, Mideast envoy Nikolay Mladenov warned of an escalation if the crisis over the metal detectors isn’t resolved by the time of Muslim prayers Friday.

He told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors Monday that it is “critically important” that the status quo which has been in place at the site since 1967 is preserved.

Israel captured the shrine, along with east Jerusalem and other territories, in the 1967 war. Since then, Muslims have administered the shrine, with Jews allowed to visit, but not to pray there.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s Public Security Directorate said it had concluded an investigation of the Israeli Embassy shooting which took place Sunday evening in a residential building used by embassy staff.

The security agency said the incident began when two Jordanians arrived at the building to set up bedroom furniture, including the son of the owner the furniture store, later identified as 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh.

It said a verbal dispute erupted between the son of the owner and the embassy employee because of a delay in delivering the furniture.

The argument took place in the presence of the landlord and a doorman, the agency said.

“The son of the owner attacked the Israeli diplomat and injured him,” the statement said. It said the Israeli fired toward the teen, injuring him, and also struck the landlord who was standing nearby.

The two Jordanians died of their injuries at a hospital.

Earlier Monday, al-Jawawdeh’s father, Zakariah, had called for an investigation, saying his son deserves justice. It was not clear if the findings of the security agency will satisfy him.

———

Laub reported from Jericho, West Bank. Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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Charlie Gard's family ends legal fight: 'We will miss him terribly'

The British parents of 11-month-old Charlie Gard, whose illness has damaged his brain and rendered him unable to breathe on his own, have decided against pursuing their controversial efforts to take him to the United States for treatment after an assessment from a U.S. doctor.

This choice will preemptively end the court proceedings and any possibility of the family transporting Charlie to the U.S.

Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, gave a solemn address to the press today about their decision on the steps of the U.K. High Court.

“This is one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to say and we are about to do one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do,” Chris Gard said, reading from a sheet of paper.

Gard said that it was no longer in his son’s best interest to seek treatment, and that they have decided to let him go and “be with the angels.”

“Our son is an absolute warrior,” Gard said of his baby. “We will miss him terribly.”

A judge extended an invitation to Dr. Michio Hirano, co-director of the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) Muscular Dystrophy Association clinic and a professor of neurology at Columbia University in New York City, as well as a doctor from the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, to evaluate Charlie’s potential readiness for an experimental treatment for his medical condition, which is known as mitochondrial depletion syndrome.

The disease is rare and causes muscles to progressively weaken, leading to organ failure. Though he is less than 1 years old, the baby has been on life support for several months.

Charlie’s parents, based upon the assessment of the doctors, have opted not to pursue nucleoside therapy, an oral medicine that aims to improve the function of his mitochondrial DNA.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, where Charlie has been receiving treatment, had recommended against the child receiving the experimental treatment.

Today, Chris Gard suggested that based upon the assessment of the doctors, they believe their son could have been saved if he were given the experimental treatment at an early stage of life, and said “a whole lot of time has been wasted.”

He asked the press for privacy as the family said their final goodbyes to their son.

Both President Trump and Pope Francis backed the fight by the Gards to pursue an experimental treatment for Charlie.

In addition to this support, protesters have flocked to both the hospital and to the steps of court to voice their support for the Gard family.

But some of that enthusiasm has turned abusive, according to the hospital.

Great Ormond Street Hospital released a statement over the weekend, saying that members of the hospital have received menacing messages, including death threats, in the wake of the case becoming an international story.

“In recent weeks the GOSH community has been subjected to a shocking and disgraceful tide of hostility and disturbance. Staff have received abuse both in the street and online,” Mary MacLeod, the hospital’s chairwoman, said in a statement. “Thousands of abusive messages have been sent to doctors and nurses whose life’s work is to care for sick children. Many of these messages are menacing, including death threats.”

According to McLeod’s statement, families have been “harassed and discomforted” while visiting their children, and that some of the harassment has occurred within the walls of the hospital itself.

“Whatever the strong emotions raised by this case, there can be no excuse for patients and families to have their privacy and peace disturbed as they deal with their own often very stressful situations or for dedicated doctors and nurses to suffer this kind of abuse,” McLeod wrote, adding that the hospital has been in touch with police regarding the threats.

Today, the hospital issued a statement about the decision that was made by the Gard family. In it, the hospital acknowledged the personal strain the family faced throughout the public battle.

“The hearts of all at GOSH go out to Connie Yates and Chris Gard,” the statement began.

The hospital also said it hoped to learn from the ordeal.

“In the months ahead, all at GOSH will be giving careful thought to what they can learn from this bruising court case,” the statement said.

ABC News’ Mike Trew and Joseph Simonetti contributed to this report.

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64 years after Korean War, North still digging up bombs

In the 10 years he has been digging up ordnance from the Korean War, Maj. Jong Il Hyon has lost five colleagues to explosions. He carries a lighter one gave him before he died. He also bears a scar on his left cheek from a bomb disposal mission gone wrong.

Sixty-four years after it ended, the war is still giving up thousands of bombs, mortars and pieces of live ammunition. Virtually all of it is American, but Jong noted that more than a dozen other countries fought on the U.S. side, and every now and then their bombs will turn up as well.

“The experts say it will take 100 years to clean up all of the unexploded ordnance, but I think it will take much longer,” Jong said in an interview with The Associated Press at a construction site on the outskirts of Hamhung, North Korea’s second-largest city, where workers unearthed a rusted but still potentially deadly mortar round in February. Last October, 370 more were found in a nearby elementary school playground.

According to Jong, his bomb squad is one of nine in North Korea, one for each province. His unit alone handled 2,900 leftover explosives — including bombs, mortars and live artillery shells — last year. He said this year they have already disposed of about 1,200.

Fortunately, there have been only a few injuries in the past few years. But Jong said an 11-year-old boy who found a bomb in May lost several fingers when it went off while he was playing with it.

North Korea is just one of many countries still dealing with the explosive legacy of major wars. In Asia alone, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and even Japan have huge amounts of unexploded ordnance left to clean up.

The three-year Korean War, which ended in what was supposed to be a temporary armistice on July 27, 1953, was one of the most brutal ever fought.

Virtually all of the 22 major cities in North Korea were severely damaged and hundreds of thousands of civilians killed by U.S. saturation bombing. The tonnage of bombs dropped on the North was about the same as the total dropped by the U.S. against Japan during World War II. North Korea is probably second only to Cambodia as the most heavily bombed country in history.

By 1952, the bombing was so complete that the Air Force had effectively run out of worthwhile targets.

North Koreans claim 400,000 bombs were dropped on Pyongyang alone, roughly one bomb for every resident at the time, and that only two modern buildings in the capital were left standing. All told, the U.S. dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea during the war, most of it in the North, including with 32,500 tons of napalm.

Twelve to 15 percent of the North’s population was killed in the war.

Charles Armstrong, a historian at Columbia University, said the expansion of saturation bombing in North Korea marked something of a turning point for the United States and was followed by the use of an even heavier version during the Vietnam War.

“To this day, the North Korean government and media point to the American bombing as a war crime and a major justification for the continued mobilization of the North Korean people — as well as the development of nuclear weapons — in defense against future attacks,” he said.

Armstrong noted that the Hamhung area and the nearby port of Hungnam were hit particularly hard by U.S. bombers because they were an industrial center and home to the largest nitrogen fertilizer plant in Asia.

Nitrogen fertilizer can be used to make explosives, so the U.S. Air Force obliterated the area in late December 1950. Later rebuilt, the fertilizer plant is still functioning today and remains one of Hamhung’s most famous landmarks.

The bomb squads respond to calls when ordnance is discovered, check construction sites before excavation work begins and educate people, especially school children, about the dangers. Jong’s squad, which covers South Hamgyong province, has nine members. The largest, in Kangwon along the South Korean border, has 15.

One bomb was uncovered in March by farmers digging an irrigation canal near a railway that runs through Hamhung from Pyongyang to the northeastern port of Chongjin.

“This railway was here during the war, so it was a target,” said Yom Hak Chol, manager of the 4th work team of the Pohang cooperative farm. He was working in the field when the bomb was found and watched the bomb squad remove it.

“We had to evacuate the area. The bomb squad blew it up over there,” he said, pointing to a narrow canal area where cows stood grazing between sprawling corn fields. “It left a hole 3 meters (10 feet) deep.”

Some bombs are not easily recognizable to the untrained eye. Jong said he has come across a surprising variety of bombs and explained in detail one in particular — a “butterfly bomb” that used wing-like attachments to disperse small “bomblets” over a wider area. The bomb was originally devised by the Nazis during World War II. The U.S. revised its design and used them in North Korea.

Jong said many aging bombs have become even more dangerous as rust erodes their detonators, and that some could go off with the slightest movement.

“I’m sure that my daughter’s generation will also suffer from this problem,” he said. “I want the world to know that.”

———

Eric Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him at www.twitter.com/erictalmadge and www.instagram.com/erictalmadge.

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Pope calls for 'moderation' after Jerusalem shrine violence

Pope Francis has appealed for moderation after recent killings at a Jerusalem holy site.

Francis told faithful Sunday in St. Peter’s Square that he was following “with trepidation the grave tensions and violence” unleashed at a contested shrine. Last week Arab gunmen, shooting from the shrine, killed two Israeli policemen, three Palestinians were killed in street clashes and a Palestinian fatally stabbed three members of an Israeli family.

Francis said: “I feel the need to express a distressed appeal for moderation and dialogue.” He invited others to pray with him so people would aim for reconciliation and peace.

Israeli authorities have imposed new security and tensions have been raised after the violence at what’s known as Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims.

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Protests across Poland over law to control judiciary

Outrage over plans by Poland’s governing party to put the judicial system under its political control sparked another day of nationwide protests Saturday, with some people gathering outside the home of ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and accusing him of being a dictator.

Polish democracy icon and former President Lech Walesa addressed a protest in Gdansk, urging young Poles to fight to preserve the separation of powers that his Solidarity movement helped to achieve more than a quarter century ago when Poland threw off communist rule.

Later, thousands of government opponents gathered in Warsaw, Krakow and other cities to urge President Andrzej Duda to reject legislation that would give Law and Justice, the conservative ruling party, control of the Supreme Court and the judiciary.

“We are all in danger. Every citizen is in danger now,” said Tomasz Gromadka, a 32-year-old playwright protesting in front of the home of Kaczynski, who is the power behind the government and presidency. “Because now they are taking the courts, then they will take the media, they will take everything. But we still have the streets. This is our power. I think we should do whatever we can.”

The European Union and many international legal experts say the changes would mark a dramatic reversal for a country that has been hailed as a model of democratic transition over the past quarter century, and move Poland closer toward authoritarianism.

The party “is about to finish democracy,” said Ewa Krasucka, a 32-year-old photographer. “Honestly I don’t think we will stop him now, but at least in 10 years, in 15 years, when we will still be with these people in the government I will feel good with myself for being here now.”

Many of the protesters then moved to the Supreme Court, where people sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” and held up candles.

Law and Justice won parliamentary elections in 2015 with nearly 38 percent of the vote, which translated into a slim majority in the parliament. It has maintained support of about 35 to 40 percent of voters, according to recent polls, with many supporting its cash handouts for families and its conservative and pro-Catholic worldview.

The party says the changes are needed to reform a justice system that Kaczynski says was never purged of former communists after that system collapsed in 1989.

In Warsaw, 29-year-old lawyer Marzena Wojtczak disputed that logic, saying many judges working today had actually been anti-communist dissidents and others are too young to have been communists.

Demonstrations have taken place almost every day in Poland over the past week as lawmakers pushed forward with the legislation to impose greater control over the courts.

“This will sound strange, but this is the worst and best moment in Poland since 1989,” Tomasz Lis, the editor of Newsweek Polska and an outspoken government critic, said on Twitter. “A great nation is defending democracy and its own freedom.”

The Supreme Court’s powers include ruling on the validity of elections, and government critics fear the ruling party could use friendly judges to falsify future elections. They also fear the courts, under political pressure, will prosecute political opponents.

After winning power in 2015, Law and Justice has acted quickly to cement its power, prompting numerous street protests.

The party has asserted control over government-owned media, purged the army of most of its leadership and has neutralized the power of the Constitutional Tribunal to block any new legislation that might violate the constitution.

On Saturday, presidential spokesman Krzysztof Lapinski said Duda sees some flaws in the new legislation on the Supreme Court. But he stopped short of saying whether the president would reject the bill or seek the opinion of the Constitutional Tribunal.

Duda has 21 days to sign the bill into law.

The European Commission has expressed its concerns about Poland’s judicial changes and recently threatened to strip Poland of its EU voting rights, but has so far proven powerless to do anything. Any sanctions would require unanimity of the remaining 27 EU members.

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German runaway girl who converted to Islam is found in Iraq

A German girl who ran away from home after converting to Islam has been found as Iraqi forces liberated the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State extremists, German and Iraqi officials said Saturday. She is reported to be in good health and will be interrogated next week by Iraqi officials.

The 16-year-old teenager, only identified as Linda W. in line with German privacy laws, is getting consular assistance from the German Embassy in Iraq, prosecutor Lorenz Haase said from the eastern German city of Dresden.

Three Iraqi intelligence and investigative sources confirmed to The Associated Press that the German teenager, who was apprehended in the basement of a home in Mosul’s Old City earlier this month, was Linda W.

The girl is in good health, the Iraqi officials said, adding that on the day of her arrest she was “too stunned” to speak but now she is doing better. They said she had been working with the IS police department.

Linda W. could theoretically face the death sentence, according to Iraqi’s counter-terrorism law. However, even if she is sentenced to death in Iraq, she would not be executed before the age of 22.

Photos of a disheveled young woman in the presence of Iraqi soldiers went viral online last week, but there were contradicting reports about the girl’s identity.

The German teenager had married a Muslim Arab she met online after arriving in the group’s territory, the Iraqi officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information was not public. They said Linda W. was one of 26 foreigners arrested in Mosul since the retreat of the extremists there.

So far, the young German has not made any statement. The officials said she is currently being held together with other foreign women at a prison near Baghdad’s airport. Starting next week, she’ll be investigated by the Iraqis, who will bring in German interpreters for the interrogation since she does not speak much Arabic.

Haase, the German prosecutor, told the AP that the girl ran away from her family home in Pulsnitz in eastern Germany last summer. It’s not clear yet whether she will return to Germany, he said.

“We, as the public prosecutor’s office Dresden, have not applied for an arrest warrant and will therefore not be able to request extradition,” Haase said. “There is the possibility that Linda might be put on trial in Iraq. She might be expelled for being a foreigner or, because she is a minor reported missing in Germany, she could be handed over to Germany.”

The 26 foreigners found in Mosul included two men, eight children and 16 women, the Iraqi officials said. Some of those arrested were from Chechnya, and the women were from Russia, Iran, Syria, France, Belgium and Germany.

In addition to Linda W., the Iraqis found three other women from Germany, with roots in Morocco, Algeria and Chechnya. The Iraqi officials said the German-Moroccan woman has a child and both were arrested in Mosul about ten days ago.

They said the women allegedly worked with IS in the police department. Their husbands were IS fighters but their fates were not clear.

French and German Embassy personnel have already visited the arrested women, they said. The children will be handed over to the countries they belong to, while the women will be tried on terrorism charges in Iraq, according to the officials.

More than 930 people, among them several girls and young women, have left Germany to join IS in Syria and Iraq in recent years, the German news agency dpa reported.

While some have been killed in battle and suicide bombings and others have returned to Germany, there’s also a large number that are unaccounted for, German security officials say. Many of them were radicalized via social media.

Local newspapers reported last year that Linda W. was in touch with IS members online before she ran away from home. She started wearing long gowns before she disappeared from her family’s home last summer. Her mother later found a copy of the girl’s plane ticket to Turkey under a bed, German media reported.

The mayor of Pulsnitz, Barbara Kueke, told dpa on Saturday that she was relieved the girl had been found. She described the teenager’s family as very reclusive.

Lueke said the school had been aware of the girl’s conversion to Islam and the principal had talked to the parents about it, adding that “it was very surprising, though, that the girl has been radicalized in such a way.”

In a different case, a French woman captured earlier this month in Mosul with her four children is facing possible prosecution in Iraq for allegedly collaborating with IS.

The woman, believed to be in her 30s, was arrested July 9 along with her two sons and two daughters in a basement in Mosul’s Old City, according to Iraqi intelligence officials.

Two Iraqi intelligence officials told the AP on Wednesday that the woman is being investigated in Baghdad and could face terrorism charges for illegally entering Iraq and joining IS, and that the French government wants the children handed over to France.

———

Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad, Iraq.

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