Palestinian guards working for the Waqf (Muslim Authority) on the Temple Mount refused entry to an Israeli policeman on Monday afternoon because he was wearing a kippah (head covering worn by religious Jews).
“This morning a number of local individuals on the Temple Mount closed and locked the doors of the Dome of the Rock, preventing police from entering. Police units remained at the scene outside until the doors were opened several hours later from those who had locked the doors,” police said in a statement.
The police were at the site as part of their twice-daily security check and the Palestinian guards demanded that the Israeli policeman remove his kippah. When he refused, a scuffle ensued. The Palestinian security guards closed the gates to the building, sealing themselves inside for several hours while the police waited outside.
The Waqf released a statement saying it had ordered the closure of the Dome of the Rock after an Israeli policeman “attempted to storm it while wearing a kippah.”
In an article headlined “Israeli Police Withdraw From Temple Mount,” Al Jazeera reported that the Muslim guards suspected the Israeli policeman was going to pray inside the building.
Five Palestinians were detained for questioning. The Palestinian Authority released a statement criticizing the actions of the police for “interfering in freedom of worship at a Muslim holy site.”
According to an agreement between Jordan and Israel, Jews are permitted to visit the Temple Mount, their holiest site, but are not permitted to pray or display any religious symbols. Jews undergo rigorous security checks for religious items including prayer books and Bibles. Christians are similarly restricted and though they do not undergo security checks, they are also restricted from prayer and may not display religious symbols or religious objects.
It should be noted that the Dome of the Rock, the scene of the conflict, is a shrine and not a mosque (a Muslim place of prayer). It is frequently misidentified as Al Aqsa, the silver domed mosque on the southern end of the Temple Mount Compound.