Israel Arrests 5 Palestinians at Flashpoint Holy Site

Tuesday, 19 February, 2019 - 09:45
Jerusalem- Asharq Al-Awsat

Israeli police say they have arrested five Palestinians for allegedly “causing a disturbance” at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

The clashes took place around the Bab al-Rahma – a large structure inside the Golden Gate that police closed off in 2003, saying that the Islamic heritage association that operated there had been associated with Hamas.

The Waqf, the Islamic body that manages the Temple Mount compound, wants the area reopened, arguing that the heritage association has long since been disbanded, after its members were arrested. Police in Jerusalem oppose reopening the site.

Last week, the Jordanian government expanded the number of members in the Waqf in the hopes of thwarting Israeli efforts to change the delicate status quo at the holy site, according to sources at the religious trust.

For decades there have been 11 members of the Waqf, which oversees the day-to-day management of the compound and operates separately from the religious leadership of the mosques on the mount, located in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Amman said it would be expanding the Waqf council to 18, adding for the first time representatives of the Palestinian Authority and local Muslim leaders.

Muslim religious officials convened in the closed area last week, and Israeli police placed a lock on a fence in response. Videos purportedly of Monday’s incident show several men damaging the fence.

The site — known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary — is considered the holiest place in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. Any change to the status quo, no matter how minor, has the potential to ignite tensions.

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