Jerusalem District Police arrested 26 right-wing activists Saturday night, including one soldier, after they seized King David's Tomb in Jerusalem in protest of Pope Francis' trip to Israel.
Police said that 150 activists were disturbing the peace at the site, with some of the protesters engaging in violent behavior against officers. According to police, the soldier was arrested for threatening an officer with his weapon in an attempt to prevent a friend's arrest.
Several police officers were lightly wounded and a police cruiser was damaged. The Tomb was evacuated and calm has been restored to the site.
|Right-wing activists at King David's Tomb|
Itamar Ben-Gvir, who represents some of the arrested activists, claimed that "the police behaved with brutality and violence towards the youths who were attempting to protest the evacuation of King David's Tomb for the Pope's visit."
He stressed that "a local court ruled Friday that protests against the pope were allowed 150 meters away from the site, but it looks like the police is trying to silence the protest."
Last Thursday, dozens of right-wing activists, including Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, protested near the site.
King David's Tomb Saturday night (Photo: Aryeh King)
The right-wing activists are concerned that the room where the Last Supper is believed to have been held – situated above King David's Tomb – will be handed over to the Vatican.
The Foreign Ministry said in response that "there is no intention of handing over or granting any rights to the Last Supper Room to the Vatican – neither during the pope's visit to Israel nor afterwards. The State of Israel is maintaining its traditional stance that the Last Supper Room and any other part of the compound on Mount Zion will not be handed over to Vatican ownership or possession in any way."
In preparation for the visit, police reinforced its forces. Some 8,5000 police officers will be posted around Jerusalem and a joint intelligence desk will serve as a command center to keep all security elements informed of developments.
A senior police official said: "This is a complex and sensitive operation on national and international level."
The pope's decision not to use a bullet-proof car means Israeli security officials are clearing the roads and creating numerous "sterile areas" ahead of his 24-hour stay in the city.
"He is a guest here and we would like to assure that he goes back home safe and sound," said Oded Ben-Hur, a former Israeli ambassador to Holy See.