Israel arrests Jewish activist planning Passover sacrifice at Al Aqsa Mosque compound

Fringe group had called on supporters to bring sacrificial lambs to site while Muslims are observing Ramadan

Al Aqsa Mosque compound is revered by both Muslims and Jews. Reuters
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An Israeli campaigner for Jewish prayer rights at Al Aqsa Mosque compound was detained on Monday, in an apparent bid to pre-empt any attempt to hold a Passover sacrifice at the site while Palestinians mark Ramadan.

The compound, in Jerusalem's Old City, is revered by Muslims and Jews. It is a frequent flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is monitored especially closely by authorities during religious holidays.

Since capturing the site in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel has maintained a long-standing status quo arrangement preventing non-Muslim worship there.

But fringe Jewish religious group the Temple Mount Administration has been calling for fellow activists to bring Paschal lambs — a Jewish animal sacrifice — to sacrifice at the site on Wednesday, the beginning of the Passover festival.

That would clash with the observance of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight hours. The holy month began on the evening of March 22.

Israeli media aired phone footage taken by Refael Morris — described as the leading Passover sacrifice campaigner — showing him being pulled over in his car by plainclothes police officers.

In the video, an officer says Mr Morris is suspected of disrupting public order and that his house would be searched.

Police said the video was authentic but did not make further comment on the reasons for the detention.

Mr Morris was stopped while driving near Latrun, about 35km from Jerusalem, supporters said.

Growing numbers of Jewish visitors who flout the ban on prayers in the compound have stoked rancour among Palestinians and in Jordan — Al Aqsa's custodian.

Israel's appointment of far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir as Security Minister added to tension, as Mr Ben Gvir has previously opposed the ban on Jews praying at Al Aqsa.

But on Sunday, the Temple Mount Administration issued a protest statement after Mr Ben-Gvir told Channel 12 TV they should “cool it”, and dismissed their campaign as a “protest stunt”.

“I'm not in favour of there being a Passover sacrifice,” said Mr Ben-Gvir, who since taking office has dropped his past demand to formalise Jewish prayer rights at the compound.

The tension comes as Jordan’s King Abdullah II said it was “the duty of every Muslim to deter Israeli escalations against Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem”, as he assured Palestinians that “we’re forever with you”.

Updated: April 06, 2023, 5:43 AM