The reported arrests came after thousands of people stormed the Golden Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, which Israel had sealed due to illegal activity and connections to Hamas.
By World Israel News staff
Jerusalem police on Sunday arrested two top officials of the Islamic authority that administers the Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, according to a Waqf official and Palestinian media reports.
The arrests of Sheikh Abdel Azim Salhab, the Jordan-appointed head of the newly-expanded Waqf council, and his deputy, Sheikh Najah Bakirat, reportedly took place on the heels of protests over the past week in the Temple Mount area. On Friday, thousands of Palestinians stormed the Old City’s Golden Gate.
Israeli police confirmed the arrests. The Waqf later said police had released Salhab and banned him from entering the site for a week.
The Golden Gate, also known as the Gate of Mercy, was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 because the group managing the area had ties to Hamas. Israel has kept the gate closed to stop what it says is illegal construction work there by the Waqf. Israeli officials believe the work has led to the destruction of antiquities from periods of Jewish presence in the area, in an attempt to erase the Jewish historical connection to the site.
The Palestinian news service WAFA said that Muslim worshippers were led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, and other religious leaders in forcing their way into the Golden Gate area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.
“The worshipers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show delight at the reopening of the area,” said WAFA. On Wednesday, Palestinians removed a metal gate that Israeli police had placed at the entrance to the gate and held prayers in the area, the news service added.
Abdel Nasser Abu al-Basal, the Jordanian minister for Waqf affairs, strongly condemned the arrest of the officials, calling it a “dangerous and serious escalation.” The Jordanian minister also warned that the arrests would harm Jordan’s role as custodian of the holy shrines in Jerusalem.