Palestinians, Israeli police scuffle on Temple Mount over a yarmulke

Spokesman for Islamic authority overseeing holy site says Jewish guard refused to remove head covering before entering Dome of Rock for routine check

Muslim worshipers square off with police outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, January 14, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)
Muslim worshipers square off with police outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, January 14, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

Scuffles broke out at the Temple Mount on Monday after Palestinian guards at the Dome of the Rock shrine refused to allow an Israeli policeman to enter for a routine security check because he was wearing a yarmulke.

Firas Dibs, a spokesman for the Waqf Islamic authority that oversees the site, said dozens of worshipers scuffled with police after the guards closed the doors to the mosque, preventing anyone from entering. He said the director of the mosque was lightly wounded.

“This morning a number of local individuals on the Temple Mount closed and locked the doors of the Dome of the Rock, preventing police from entering. Police units remained at the scene outside until the doors were opened several hours later from those who had locked the doors,” police said in a statement.

Five people were detained for questioning, the statement added.

The gold-domed shrine is part of the Al-Aqsa mosque complex, which Muslims consider their third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. It is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the two biblical temples.

The holy site has often been at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and past clashes there have sparked widespread violence.

Dibs said Israel police carry out routine security checks every morning, and that the policeman was only prevented from entering because he was wearing a yarmulke. Palestinians have long claimed that Israel plans to take over the site so it can rebuild the temple, allegations denied by the Israeli government, which says it has no plans to change the status quo.

Under an arrangement in place since Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, non-Muslims are allowed to visit the site but not pray there.

Jews are allowed to enter during limited hours, with police officers guiding them through a predetermined route. The Jewish worshipers are banned from praying, displaying religious symbols or raising the Israeli flag on the mount.

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