Top Israeli rabbi moves to prevent Passover sacrifice at Al-Aqsa mosque
The move by the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, comes amid fears of violence at the holy site as the Jewish holiday coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which draws tens of thousands of worshippers to pray at Al-Aqsa.
"Following reports of intent to bring a Passover sacrifice up to the Temple Mount: Rabbi of the Western Wall to prevent bringing animals to the Mughrabi area," said a statement from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
The Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray and sits below Al-Aqsa Mosque. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit but not pray at the mosque's complex.
Passover begins on Wednesday and traditionally sheep and goats are sacrificed on the eve of the Jewish holiday.
In previous years, Jewish activists have tried to smuggle animals into the mosque compound to reenact the sacrifice as described in the Bible.
"Under the direction of the rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, (we) will work to prevent bringing animals to the Mughrabi ramp area," the Foundation said, referring to the entrance to the mosque compound used by non-Muslims.
The Returning to the Mountain movement, a radical Jewish group, said it will pay 20,000 shekels ($5,570) to anyone who succeeds in the "holy mission" of carrying out a sacrifice at the compound, Islam's third holiest site.
The organisation's director was arrested Monday as a preventative measure, Israeli police said.
Two people from southern and central Israel were arrested Tuesday police said, after they were found with a goat in Jerusalem's Old City.
The force appealed to the public not to give a platform to "extremist groups which try to call for violations of the practices in place on the Temple Mount".
Israel's Sephardi chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, published a notice on Tuesday barring the faithful from visiting the Al-Aqsa compound because it is "a severe breach of Jewish law".
The Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, warned Monday that permitting Jewish sacrifice in the compound "would fuel an already explosive situation, for which the Israeli occupation government bears full responsibility".
Israel annexed east Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War, a move not recognised by most of the international community.