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.
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.