The Temple Mount in Jerusalem .
(photo credit: JACK BROOK)
Police detained five members of the Wakf Islamic trust on the Temple Mount on Thursday for violating archeological laws.
According to police, the suspects erected scaffolding next to the Dome of the Rock and proceeded to make illegal structural changes without coordinating with the Antiquities Authority.
It is believed that the First and Second Temples once stood where the Dome of the Rock is located.
Four of the five detainees were identified in Arab media as Bassam al-Hallaq, Issa Salhab, Bahaa Abu Sbeih and Saed Abu Sneina. All five were taken to a detention facility in the Old City and interrogated.
The men have been barred from the compound for five days pending an ongoing investigation.
The latest arrests came one week after three members of the Jordanian-backed Wakf were arrested for attacking a group of Jewish archeologists visiting the Mount.
The three were arrested on July 27. Among the attack victims was Zachi Dvira, co-head of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, whose members look for valuable archeological and historical remnants in the tons of debris illegally removed from the compound.
The attack, a portion of which was captured on video, occurred after one archeologist attempted to pick up a rock.
Zachi said the assault “only strengthened our resolve to study the Temple Mount – all periods of the Temple Mount – and share the archeological truths about its history to encourage educated discussion about this most holy and also contested site.”
The three assailants are expected to stand trial in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for the assault.
In 1999, Arab bulldozers surreptitiously dug up a mountain of irreplaceable artifacts to build an entrance to a shrine under the rear of the Dome of the Rock. The tons of extraordinarily rare and historically valuable debris were then carted off by dump trucks and discarded in the nearby Kidron Valley.
The trucks carried what is believed to contain over a million artifacts dating back to the First Temple period.
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