Five arrested as police scuffle with Muslim activists on Temple Mount
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Five arrested as police scuffle with Muslim activists on Temple Mount

Palestinians say four injured in fighting; police say group refused to heed repeated requests not to interfere with visit by religious Jews

Police arresting a man on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on September 18, 2018. (courtesy)
Police arresting a man on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on September 18, 2018. (courtesy)

Police arrested five Muslim activists on the Temple Mount on Tuesday and accused them of trying to obstruct a group of Jewish visitors touring the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

The arrests came hours ahead of the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur, which begins Tuesday evening. Tensions are often increased around Jewish holidays, which often see an uptick in the number of  Jewish visitors to the site.

According to the police and video from the scene, the five suspects belong to the Al-Aqsa Youth organization and had blocked a group of Jewish religious visitors.

“Police asked them several times not to disturb the public order and not to interfere with the proper functioning of the visits, but they did not respond,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.

Video from the incident released by the left-wing Ir Amim organization showed police scuffling with a group of Muslims on the compound, which houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque and is known as the Haram al-Sharif in Arabic.

According to Ir Amim, police had tried to move two people who work for the Waqf Islamic endowment, which administers the site, from a path where the Jewish visitors had been walking.

A Waqf spokesperson said four people were injured in the fighting.

The spokesperson accused the police of “assaulting …Waqf officials, mosque guards, and worshipers,” the official Palestinian Authority news outlet Wafa reported.

According to the prevailing status quo at the site, Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there. Visits by religious Jews are closely guarded by a police escort and Waqf representatives generally also follow the groups closely.

Police said earlier in the week that they would beef up the presence in the Old City for Yom Kippur and the Muslim holy day of Ashura, which falls the next day.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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