Police opened an investigation Sunday after graffiti was found in the Temple Mount compound depicting a swastika as the equivalent of a Star of David.
The incident came on the heels of a call by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for Palestinians to defend the Temple Mount, the location of the al-Aqsa mosque and the site of heated clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces over the past several weeks.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said authorities had opened a probe into the incident after finding at least three instances of the graffiti daubed on the floor inside the holy site.
Pictures posted online by the Israeli news portal 0404 showed two different places where the symbols had been painted in blue, one on stairs leading to the Temple Mount and another in an unidentified location.
On Friday, Abbas called for Jews to be barred from the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and home to a mosque and shrine revered by Muslims as well, and said Palestinians should defend the site.
“It is our sacred place, al-Aqsa [mosque] is ours, this Noble Sanctuary is ours. They have no right to go there and desecrate it,” Abbas said, using the Muslim term for the esplanade, according to Israel Radio.
Abbas was speaking at a conference in the West Bank town of Ramallah after a spate of clashes this week followed a Monday confrontation between Palestinian youths and Israeli police.
He insisted that defending al-Aqsa was tantamount to defending Jerusalem, which the Palestinians are demanding as the capital of their future state.
“Jerusalem is the jewel in the crown and it is the eternal capital of the Palestinian state. Without it, there will not be a state,” he said.
On Saturday, he reiterated the statement, calling Jewish visitors “a herd of cattle.”
Abbas’s speech seemed to echo the sentiments of the Hamas group, which organized a demonstration in Gaza City to call for the defense of the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and the alleged “threats” posed to the site by Israel.
On Thursday, Hamas leader in exile Mashaal accused Israel of trying to take over al-Aqsa Mosque.
Police and Palestinians have clashed regularly at and near the Temple Mount compound, including on Wednesday, when three policemen were injured during protests against restrictions on Muslim worship at the mosque.
Police used stun grenades as a crowd of about 400 people gathered near the entrance to the mosque, an AFP photographer reported.
Israeli officials banned Muslim men under 50 from the site over the weekend.
On Monday morning, Israel Police forces surrounded the al-Aqsa mosque and entered the plaza atop the Temple Mount after receiving information that Palestinian activists had gathered stones and set barbed wire obstacles in preparation for planned attacks against Jewish visitors to the site.
Upon entering the site, police were met with rocks, firebombs and fireworks, which were hurled at them by the protesters, Israel Radio reported. The rioters were then pushed back into the mosque. Police removed multiple obstacles at the site, including stretches of barbed wire, and it was finally opened to non-Muslim visitors at 7:30 a.m.
The simmering tensions prompted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to say he was “deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem,” which “inflame tensions and must stop.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday blamed “Palestinian extremists” for the repeated clashes at the contested site.
News agencies contributed to this report.