Eighteen Muslims were arrested in Jerusalem Sunday night after pelting tourists at the Temple Mount with stones, reportedly concerned that Jews were bent on destroying the site's Al-Aksa Mosque in order to rebuild a Jewish temple, which is associated with biblical prophecy.
According to the Jerusalem Police Department, the Muslim attackers had heard rumors about plans to destroy the mosque, and wanted to prevent anyone from entering the building. They pelted stones at Christian tourists and police officers accompanying them on a visit to the site on Sunday, injuring a number of people in the process, The Jerusalem Post reported.
In another case highlighting recent religious tensions in the city, two weeks ago both a Christian monastery and a peace school in Jerusalem set up to improve ties between Arab and Jewish children were reportedly targeted by Jewish extremists. The vandals wrote hate speech on the facilities' walls in separate incidents, calling for the death of Christians and a "holocaust" for Arabs.
The Temple Mount has been one of the most hotly disputed religious sites of worship for the past few centuries and has been one of the main points of tension between Israelis and Palestinians, as both Jewish and Muslim authorities have been locked in a stalemate over what to do with what is believed to be a temple visited by the presence of God.
The ancient site was the location of two previous temples, and, according to Christian scholars, biblical prophecies suggest that a third temple will be built there, which will unite people from all nations, serving as a major religious center when Jesus returns. For Muslims, the temple is referred to as the Noble Sanctuary or the Dome of the Rock and is where it is believed the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven.
The temple had been under the control of Muslims for more than 1,000 years, but when Israel defeated its Muslim neighbors in the Six-Day War in 1967, it took back control of the holy place. Still, the Israeli government handed control back over to Muslim authorities in order to preserve the peace.
More than 40 officers were needed to finally disperse the attackers on the Temple Mount on Sunday, and officials arrested three people on site. Another 10 were arrested as they exited the Al-Aksa Mosque after afternoon prayers, and five were arrested later in the afternoon. There were believed to have been around 50 Muslims in total connected to the attacks.