Temple Mount Tensions Continue as Israeli Police Officers Refuse to Remove Shoes at Disputed Prayer Site

Officers were caught on video trampling prayer rugs at the Bab al-Rahma site, reigniting discord after weekend prayers ended without conflict

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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The Bab al-Rahma building at the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, March 7, 2019.
The Bab al-Rahma building at the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, March 7, 2019.Credit: AFP
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

A video spreading through Arab social media outlets shows Israeli police officers refusing to remove their shoes upon entering the disputed Bab al-Rahma building in Jerusalem's Temple Mount on Saturday, trampling prayer rugs at the site.

Since the beginning of the crisis surrounding the disputed prayer site, police officers regularly patrol the site, but usually look in from the doorway without entering the building.

During the patrol on Saturday afternoon, the officers entered the building and, despite objections from Muslim religious leaders at the Temple Mount, they refused to remove their shoes.

>> Read more: Caution on the Temple Mount | Editorial ■ Recent clashes have Israel, Palestinians on the brink of broad escalation | Analysis

"Move [the rugs] because I'm walking here, I need to pass. If you want to move them, move them. It's a shame, you put in so much effort," an Israeli officer can be heard saying in the video. "I'll be back every hour,'' he said, "so be sure to clear the rugs for me. I need to scan the area."

The same police officer was documented entering mosques on the Temple Mount with a bottle of wine in his hand in what was perceived as an act that dishonored the Muslim ban on alcohol.

The videos of the officer, which were filmed by the Waqf (the Muslim custodian of the holy site), quickly spread through Palestinian social media networks.

Despite tensions surrounding the reopening of the building by the Waqf three weeks ago, prayer services were conducted in relative peace Friday.

About 100 Muslim worshippers who had been barred from entering the Temple Mount complex by police order prayed outside the gates of the complex. Friday's sermon called upon the believers to defend Bab al-Rahma. After the prayer service, there were several calls of "Allah hu Akbar" (God is great) by worshippers, and several incidents of shoving between worshippers and police, but the crowd soon quietly dispersed.

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