Waqf guard injures police officer after being arrested on Temple Mount

Police says official harassed, spat at non-Muslim visitors to Jerusalem holy site before being detained; he claims policeman spat at him, hit him on the head with handcuffs

A confrontation between police officers and Islamic Waqf members on the Temple Mount on August 7, 2019. (Screenshot: Twitter)
A confrontation between police officers and Islamic Waqf members on the Temple Mount on August 7, 2019. (Screenshot: Twitter)

A member of the Islamic Waqf on Wednesday morning attacked and injured a police officer on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem after he was arrested for harassing non-Muslims touring the holy site, police said.

The incident began during a standard tour of the site by non-Muslims, when a member of the Muslim trust that manages the site hurled insults and spat at the visitors, police said in a statement.

It wasn’t clear from the statement whether the targeted group was made up of Jews or tourists.

Police officers at the site detained the Waqf official, who reacted by attacking them and injuring one of them, according to police. The officer was taken for medical treatment.

The Waqf member — named by Palestinian media as Mohannad Idris — was also injured during the incident, police said, and was taken to Al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem for treatment.

Videos circulating on Palestinian social media did not show how the incident began, but did show the commotion that followed, with many Waqf officials and members of the public confronting and shouting at the police officers. The injured Waqf member can be seen with his shirt bloodied.

The Waqf official later tried to file a complaint against the officers with the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department, but was told to come back on Thursday. He told the Kan public broadcaster that he had just been doing his job, giving instructions to the visiting group, when an officer spat at him. An officer then hit him on the head with handcuffs, causing the bleeding, he said, his head wrapped in a bandage.

The incident came as tension builds up ahead of Sunday, when the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av — in which worshipers mourn the destruction of both Temples that used to stand at the site — coincides with the beginning of the Muslim “Festival of the Sacrifice,” Eid al-Adha.

The Temple Mount — the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest for Muslims, who refer to it as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound or the Noble Sanctuary — is normally closed to non-Muslims on Muslim festivals. But Jewish Temple groups have waged a campaign for police to keep the site open to Jews on Tisha B’Av.

An aeriel photograph of the Temple Mount, part of ‘The Mount’ exhibit at the Tower of David Museum (Courtesy Gali Tibbon)

Located in East Jerusalem, which Israel says is part of its undivided capital and which the Palestinians claim as part of their future state, it is one of the main flashpoints of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jews can enter the compound on weekdays — during limited hours and on a predetermined route under heavy supervision — but face significant restrictions such as a ban on praying, appearing to pray, displaying religious or national symbols and drinking from the water fountains.

Last month, a pro-Israel Saudi blogger visiting the country at the invitation of the Foreign Ministry was attacked and cursed at by Palestinians at the site, and chairs and other objects were thrown at him in the streets of the Old City.

In June, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera apologized to President Reuven Rivlin for visiting the Temple Mount accompanied by Palestinian officials. Pinera’s visit to the site had been protested by the Foreign Ministry, which said the presence of Palestinian officials undermined Israel’s sovereignty over the eastern part of Jerusalem.

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