Israeli police arrested on Thursday two members of the Islamic Waqf, which oversees Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount, after they refused to halt unauthorized construction work, according to police.
Police also arrested a Jewish man for prostrating himself while visiting the Temple Mount, an act which violates the site’s regulations against Jewish prayer, Israel Radio reported.
According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, the Waqf said that three men were arrested after Bassam Hallaq, the engineer in charge of restoration and renovation of al-Aqsa Mosque, told his two workers to ignore the police order because Israeli authorities had no permission to interrupt work on a water pipe.
In September 2004, Israel’s High Court prohibited removal of earth from the Temple Mount and ruled that, should it be necessary, the Antiquities Authority must be notified a month in advance so it may examine the earth for artifacts.
Despite the High Court of Justice’s ruling, the Waqf has reportedly removed large piles of dirt from the Temple Mount in recent years and dumped them in the valley east of the Old City walls, provoking an outcry from biblical archaeologists and Jewish groups.
Jews regard the Temple Mount as their holiest site, where the First and Second Temples were located. Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary and regard it as their third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina. According to the existing arrangement, the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, or trust, administers the Temple Mount complex.