Two Palestinian men were arrested Monday for allegedly extorting Jewish visitors to the Western Wall by demanding protection money in exchange for watching their cars when they parked adjacent to the holy site.
An Israel Police undercover operation exposed a ring of men from the nearby East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan who would regularly intimidate visitors.
According to police, after an undercover detective parked his car outside Dung Gate — the entrance to the Temple Mount which borders Silwan — he was approached by two young men who demanded money to watch over his car. When the officer refused, the suspects attacked him before attempting to flee on foot.
Two suspects, aged 20 and 17, were later apprehended by the officer and taken in for questioning.
Jerusalem’s Deputy Chief Superintendent Haim Bublil praised the police operation, and said that his officers would continue working to apprehend criminals who sought to “terrorize” the public.
The Temple Mount compound sees frequent clashes between police and Palestinians over Jewish visits that are perceived as an attempt to gain full control over the site, which is currently under Jordanian custodianship.
Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the compound but are prohibited from praying and Israelis may not display national symbols for fear of triggering clashes with Muslim worshipers.
Jews consider the Temple Mount, formerly the site of the two Temples, to be Judaism’s holiest site. The compound — which today houses the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, known in Arabic as the Holy Sanctuary — is the third-holiest site in Islam.
AFP contributed to this report.