Israeli police arrested the Palestinians and removed partitions from the Gate of Mercy building.
By World Israel News Staff
On Thursday, Israeli police arrested five Palestinians and removed wooden separators from the Temple Mount’s Gate of Mercy building, reports the Palestinian Safa news service.
The area recently became a point of contention between the Israeli government and the Waqf, a Jordanian-backed religious trust that controls and manages the current Islamic edifices on the Temple Mount.
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 Jewish antiquities and is, in part, an attempt to erase the Jewish historical connection to the site.
Regavim, an Israeli NGO which deals with illegal Arab building and land issues, discovered – based on documentation of the Waqf’s activities at the site- that the purpose behind the construction was to build a mosque.
“It’s the most ancient structure on the Temple Mount, 1,400 years old,” Regavim spokeswoman Naomi Kahn told World Israel News in June. “In 1967, when Israel recaptured the Temple Mount, there was only one mosque – al-Aqsa. Now, there’s five.”
“The enforcement sweep was a direct result of Regavim’s update to the Supreme Court that disproved the state’s testimony, delivered in a closed-door hearing only two weeks ago: Despite the government’s claim that the site had been shut down, Regavim brought proof that the Wakf has continued to operate a mosque at the site, with regular prayers, Islamic study classes, and other religious activities,” the NGO said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave orders for the construction to stop in February, but that did not deter Muslim worshipers.
On February 23, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, and other religious leaders forced their way into the Mercy Gate area, removed a metal gate that Israeli police had placed at the entrance to the gate, and held prayers in the area.