Israeli police arrested on Tuesday three Arabs and two Jews, including a prominent right-wing activist, for disturbing the peace and attacking police in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, police told AFP.
The arrests came as a group of right-wing Israeli Jews visited the compound, known as the Temple Mount by Jews and the Haram al-Sharif by Muslims. It is the third holiest site in Islam and is revered as Judaism’s most sacred place.
“Two Jews from a radical right-wing movement were arrested this morning while trying to disturb the peace on the plaza,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
“One of the two, Moshe Feiglin, had started to pray, and the second had lain down on the ground,” she added.
Feiglin is a well-known hardline settler who leads an extreme nationalist faction within the Likud party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In party primaries in February he stood as Netanayhu’s sole opponent and won 25 percent of the vote.
Samri said he was to be released later in the day pending further proceedings.
She said two of the three Arabs arrested, a man who was briefly questioned, and a women accused of being in possession of a knife, were freed. The third was still being interrogated, on suspicion of assaulting a policeman, she said.
She did not specify whether the three Arabs were Israeli citizens or Palestinians. She said Feiglin’s companion was still being questioned.
Samri said that police would “be firm with anyone seeking to create provocations during Sukkot,” the week-long Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, which began on Sunday night.
Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Islamic Waqf (Religious Endowments) body that oversees the site, told AFP that around 130 “extremist Jews” had entered the compound early Tuesday.
“This is the result of the calls made by extremist politicians and these actions complicate things in Jerusalem,” he said.
The compound houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, and is venerated by Jews as the site where King Herod’s temple once stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
It is one of the most sensitive sites in the already contentious city of Jerusalem, and clashes frequently break out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at the compound.