Four residents of the West Bank in their 20s were arrested on Thursday morning for planning to sacrifice a Pascal lamb on the Temple Mount on Friday, Israel Police said.
A lamb was also confiscated from the home of Raphael Morris, head of the "Hozrim Lahar" ("Returning to the Mountain") organization, which defines itself as a "movement for the redemption of the Temple Mount" and aims to "act on the Temple Mount issue so that it does not fall into foreign hands," according to its Facebook page.
Morris received a restraining order in recent days preventing him from visiting the site. He said he will try to enter regardless.
The arrests came after a number of other Hozrim Lahar members were arrested in their homes on Wednesday.
The suspects in the case were released to house arrest on Thursday evening, according to right-wing legal NGO Honenu. They will remain under house arrest outside of Jerusalem until April 28, and will be forbidden from using social media, being interviewed about the case or contacting other people involved in it. They will also be banned from entering Jerusalem until after the Flag March on Jerusalem Day.
The issue has national security implications. Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip warned in recent days that Israel would bear the consequences if Jews are allowed to conduct “provocative rituals” in the courtyards of the compound.
A Hamas official was quoted in the Lebanese paper al-Akhbar on Thursday as warning that "any severe violation and slaughter of sacrifices in Al-Aksa or storming of the Jenin camp and conducting a large military operation will lead to a battle in Gaza."
This year, Passover falls during the month of Ramadan. Large prayers are held every Friday during Ramadan at the Temple Mount and the security situation is already an ongoing concern.
Hozrim Lahar circulated a flyer on social media on Monday, offering a prize for whoever successfully sacrifices a lamb at the site.
The flyer promises NIS 400 for being arrested, NIS 800 for being arrested with a lamb, and NIS 10,000 if a lamb is successfully sacrificed.
"Renewal of the Pascal sacrifice is the only answer to terror," the flyer read.
"The police pride itself in allowing a freedom of worship to all religions but the disgraceful reality is that the police is dancing to Hamas's tune and brutally arresting any Jew who thinks of fulfilling the commandment of the holiday - sacrificing the Pascal lamb," the group said in response to the arrests.
"All of the police's efforts will not bear fruit; we will come [to the Temple Mount] on Friday in order to sacrifice the Pascal Lamb," the group said.