Four suspects in their 20s have been detained on suspicion of planning to carry out a "Passover sacrifice" on the Temple Mount as part of their activities in the Hozrim LaHar (Returning to the Mount) movement, whose mission statement includes striving to drive Muslims from the holy site and establishing a third temple.
The suspects were taken for questioning at the Jerusalem District Police Station. A lamb intended for the ritual sacrifice was found at the home of one of the men involved.
Following the incident, police asked the public, "not to provide a pulpit for extremists trying to break the law."
"The de facto status on the Temple Mount and other holy places in Jerusalem will continue to be maintained and we will not allow extremists to undermine it," concluded the statement.
The Hamas terrorist organization issued a threat against Israel Wednesday over a campaign by the group to offer the Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount on Friday, the eve of the Passover holiday.
“We stress that this represents a dangerous escalation that crosses all red lines, as it is a direct assault on the belief and feelings of our people and our nation during this holy month,” read a statement by the group, adding that it would hold Israel responsible if any Jews perform the Biblical ceremony at the holy site.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, while the Al Aqsa Mosque, which sits at the southern end of the mount, is the third holiest site in Islam. Jews are typically not allowed to even appear to be praying within the area, and allegations of Jewish plots against the mosque have been used to incite violence since the 1920s.
The 'Returning to the Mount' movement launched a new campaign to encourage Jews to perform the Passover sacrifice this week.
In the publication published by the movement, a cash prize of ten thousand shekels was offered to those who succeed in performing the "Passover sacrifice" in its proper place, eight hundred shekels to those arrested on their way to the site with a young goat or lamb, and four hundred shekels for individuals apprehended without an animal for sacrifice.
About a week and a half ago, the movement's chairman, Rafael Morris, was summoned to a hearing in preparation for an administrative expulsion from the Old City, after claiming that he would try to offer the Passover sacrifice Passover eve.
The movement responded to the intended punishment: "It is time to change the rules of the game. Neither Hamas nor Jordan will decide whether the offering of the sacrifices will be resumed - it depends solely on us. This coming Friday, Passover eve, we will reach the Temple Mount from all parts of the country with goats and sheep demanding the sacrifice at its appointed time," it was quoted as saying in a statement.
Hamas official Zaher Jabareen said the planned attempts were a "red line," warning that "[Jews are] playing with fire, which the Palestinians cannot accept."
The Islamic Jihad terrorist organization said it would back Hamas' decisions on the issue.