Temple Mount erupts

"Police hit the boy inside the mosque and then the Wakf guards went to protect him," said Adnan Husseini, director-general of the Islamic Wakf. But Jerusalem's police chief, Cmdr. Yair Yitzhaki, said the police acted properly.

Wakf officials closed the Temple Mount to tourists, and for the next few hours the High Islamic Council met in the compound to protest the situation. Faisal Husseini, the Palestinian Authority official responsible for Jerusalem, was also present. Wakf officials met with Yitzhaki and asked him to remove the border policemen from within the Temple Mount gates. Yitzhaki refused, telling them that police can operate anywhere in the city.

After the Mount was closed, some 60 people demonstrated outside. Heavy security forces came to disperse the demonstrators. The police have sovereignty on the Temple Mount, Yitzhaki said, suggesting that political factors were behind the decision to expel the border policemen. "They were not operating alone," Yitzhaki said.

A senior police official told the Israeli news service Itim that the Wakf was trying to flex its muscles.

"The Wakf is in a crisis, because of the Palestinian Authority's increasing power in Jerusalem, and it is trying to heat up the atmosphere and show its power," he said.

But the matter wasn't political, Adnan Husseini said, and Wakf officials have no objection to police apprehending criminals within the Temple Mount area. They object to the soldiers' behavior inside the mosque.

"This is a holy place, and it is forbidden from a religious point of view," he said. "You can position soldiers outside the gates and this will protect the Temple Mount from extremists…We won't be held responsible for Israelis if they continue to stay here."