Two members of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf were arrested Wednesday after allegedly attacking Israeli archaeologist Zachi Dvira on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
A group of six Israeli archaeologists were attacked by eight Waqf members as the they toured the holy site, the Hebrew language Ynet website reported. The clash began after the Israeli group refused to leave the compound when ordered to do so by the Waqf personnel.
Dvira, who is in involved in the Temple Mount sifting project, told Ynet “it looked like the start of a lynching.” He was not injured in the assault.
The two Waqf members were taken away for questioning by police.
Israeli archaeologists say Waqf workers have carted off hundreds of tons of artifact-laden earth from the Temple Mount during renovations and construction work in the compound that also contains the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
A project, led by Dvira and others, to sift through debris dumped in the Kidron Valley outside the Old City has rescued many artifacts from the Second Temple and other periods.
Jews regard the Temple Mount as their holiest site, where the First and Second Temple 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.
There have been frequent and often violent clashes between Arab protesters and Jews over Jewish rights to visit the site. Jews are not allowed to pray there, under arrangements agreed by Israel after it captured the area in the 1967 war.