Israel Police on Wednesday arrested four Jewish residents of Jerusalem and the West Bank who allegedly intended to enter the Temple Mount illegally on Passover in order to offer a sacrifice and disturb the site's delicate status quo.
According to the police, the four suspects — all in their 20s — were influenced by the Returning to the Mountain movement, which announced last week it is offering monetary rewards to all Jews arrested while attempting to offer a sacrifice on the Temple Mount — according to biblical practices — during the holy month of Ramadan.
The police added that a young goat — believed to be the intended offering — was found at the home of one of the suspects, who were all taken in for questioning at the Jerusalem District Police Station.
"In recent days, false publications have been circulating on social media about the Temple Mount and the holy places, as well as posts encouraging extremists to be arrested by the police in an attempt to reach the Temple Mount and act illegally,” the police said in a statement.
"Israel Police is operating in Jerusalem and other districts alongside all security bodies, around the clock, overtly and covertly, against anyone who tries to disturb the order and act in violation of the status quo on the Temple Mount and other holy places around the city."
The police further called on the public “not to give a stage… to extreme fringes that try or call for disturbing order and law. The status quo on the Temple Mount and in other holy places in the city of Jerusalem has been and will continue to be preserved at all times.”
The Returning to the Mountain movement issued a statement in response to the police’s preventive arrests: "The police boasts it is granting freedom of worship to all religions but the reality is shameful.”
“The police dance to the sounds of Hamas' flute and brutally arrest any Jew who thinks of observing the holiday — the Passover sacrifice. Any efforts by the police will be in vain. We will arrive [to the Temple Mount] on the eve of Passover in order to offer a Passover sacrifice."
On Wednesday, President Isaac Herzog refuted claims that Jews were planning to offer a sacrifice on the Temple Mount.
"In recent days, false publications have been circulating on social media about the Temple Mount and the holy places. I want to take the stage and make it clear — these are lies,” said Herzog at the Iftar dinner breaking the Ramadan fast held at his residence in Jerusalem.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, on his part, issued a warning last week, according to which any such act by Jews on the Temple Mount will lead to "a severe escalation that cannot be controlled.”
At the same time, the Gaza Strip's Hamas terrorist group announced that it was monitoring the matter closely, adding that "offering a sacrifice and harming the al-Aqsa Mosque is crossing a red line."