Israel police withdraw from Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock

Scuffles broke out as Israeli policeman attempted to enter Dome of the Rock without taking off his kippah.

    During the scuffle Israeli police allegedly physically assaulted Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, director of the Al-Aqsa compound [Anadolu Agency]
    During the scuffle Israeli police allegedly physically assaulted Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, director of the Al-Aqsa compound [Anadolu Agency]

    Al-Aqsa's Dome of the Rock Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem has been reopened to Muslim worshippers following an hours-long siege by Israeli police, according to one of the Palestinian guards of the holy compound.

    Shortly after the mosque was reopened, five Palestinians - including three mosque guards - were arrested by Israeli police as they left the area, according to an Anadolu Agency correspondent based in the area.

    Earlier on Monday, Israeli police had imposed a siege on the Dome of the Rock, located in the Old City's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, sparking tensions between police and Palestinian worshippers.

    According to Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for Jerusalem's Religious Endowments Authority, the incident began earlier on Monday when Palestinian guards shut the mosque after an Israeli policeman tried to enter the site without permission.

    "The guards asked the policeman to take off his [Jewish Kippah] cap before entering the mosque, but he refused and attempted to force his way into the place, prompting the guards to close it," Dibs said.

    Dibs said the Israeli police carry out routine security checks every morning. However, since the officer refused to remove his kippah, the guards grew suspicious that he was going to perform Jewish prayer inside the mosque.

    Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the site during certain hours but are not allowed to pray at the site. 

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    Worshippers then scuffled with police as the Israeli police arrived and waited outside the mosque to arrest the Palestinian guards.

    Hundreds of Palestinians had converged at the Dome of the Rock for noon prayer, Wafa news agency reported.

    During the scuffle, Israeli police physically assaulted Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, director of the Al Aqsa Mosque, Dibs said. He has been transferred to a hospital for treatment.

    Israeli police could not immediately be reached for comment.

    The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third holiest site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina while Jews refer to it as the Temple Mount.

    Palestinians have long feared that Israel plans to take over the site so it can build the Third Temple, allegations denied by the Israeli government, which says it has no plans to change the status quo.

    Since Temple activists have admitted that praying at the compound is the first step in achieving their goal of building the Third Temple in the Noble Sanctuary, Palestinians remain concerned about Jewish visitors to the compound, many of whom attempt to pray.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies