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Police Stop Islamic Work on Temple Mount

reprinted from The Jerusalem Post
Mar. 4, 2008

by Etgar Lefkovits

Police on Tuesday stopped Wakf Muslim trust officials from performing unauthorized construction work on the Temple Mount.

Officers blocked workers from continuing unauthorized "surfacing work," said Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco. "It is our duty to ensure that the status quo is maintained on the Temple Mount."

He said Wakf officials had planned to carry out the work as a result of the tensions in east Jerusalem over the recent violence in the Gaza Strip and that the unusual police intervention sparked opposition on the holy site.

According to decades-old regulations, Israel maintains overall security control at the site, while the Wakf is charged with day-to-day administration.

Independent Israeli archeologists have long charged Islamic officials with destruction of antiquities at the site and blamed the government and the Antiquities Authority for turning a blind eye due to the political sensitivities involved.

Antiquities Authority spokeswoman Yoli Shwartz said Tuesday that the police had alerted the Authority about the issue, and that it would be "examined" in the coming days.

Palestinian Authority Jerusalem Affairs Minister Adnan Husseini said police stopped the "restoration work" of "deteriorated tiles" on the northern side of the Temple Mount.

"They are not digging or doing anything there but restoration," Husseini said.

Franco said that maintaining Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, including its Temple Mount, were "top police goals."

To that end, Franco said, police worked to keep the Temple Mount open to people all of faiths over the last year, after years when restrictions were imposed on Jewish and Christian visits due to concerns over Palestinian violence there.

More than 5,200 Israeli Jews visited the Temple Mount in 2007, an increase of 6.3 percent over 2006, while nearly 240,000 foreign tourists visited the ancient compound last year, a 41.4% increase over a year earlier.



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