3 Waqf officials will stand trial for attacking archeologists on Temple Mount

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Three members of the Islamic Waqf, the Jordanian body that oversees the Temple Mount, will likely stand trial for attacking a group of archeologists at the site.

The Israel Police have gathered enough evidence to bring the men to trial, Ynet reported.

“This looked liked the beginning of a lynch. They punched and they kicked,” one of the archeologists told police, according to Ynet. Other members of the group of six archeologists also are expected to incriminate the Waqf officials in their testimony before an indictment is filed, Ynet reported.

The suspects are all residents of eastern Jerusalem, and deny the charges, according to the report.

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The archaeologists were touring the Temple Mount on July 27. The group included Zachi Dvira, who heads a Temple Mount project in which volunteers sift through hundreds of tons of earth moved from the site by the Waqf and dumped without trying to salvage artifacts.

The group reportedly was asked to leave after one of the archeologists bent down to retrieve a stone that Waqf officials said was an olive and asserted he was not allowed to pick up. Eight Waqf members reportedly surrounded the group and verbally and physically attacked the archaeologists.

Dvira said in a post on Facebook that he filmed part of the attack on his cell phone, but Waqf officials took the phone and deleted the video. According to the Facebook post, Zachi was beaten and kicked in the stomach.

The officials were arrested following the incident.

Jewish visitors can only ascend the Temple Mount during limited visiting hours and are forbidden from doing anything resembling worship such as kneeling, singing, dancing or rending their clothes.

“We are unhurt but shaken. This incident has only strengthened our resolve to study the Temple Mount – all periods of the Temple Mount – and share the archaeological truths about its history in an attempt to encourage educated discussion about this most holy and also contested site,” the archeologists wrote in their Temple Mount Sifting Project blog post.