Israeli police officers in Jerusalem questioned two Republican congressmen after they visited the Temple Mount on Thursday. According to reports, the US officials removed an olive branch from the Temple Mount, an act that violates the code of conduct at the site.

Police talking to the congressmen

Police talking to the congressmen Photo Credit: Screenshot from Facebook

Two US congressmen were briefly questioned by police near the Temple Mount on Thursday morning for apparently removing an olive branch from the site. The US officials had just visited the site with a tour group.

Initial reports claimed that congressmen Scott Tipton (R-Colorado) and David B. McKinley (R-West Virginia) were detained. The Israel Police denied these reports in an English-language statement: “The two congressmen and their wives visited the Temple Mount this morning after visiting the Old City yesterday. Police escorted them during the visit. Toward the end of the visit police asked them if they had removed anything from the site. The issue was quickly clarified and the congressman [sic] continued their visit according to plan.”

“They were not detained or arrested,” the Israel Police stressed. However, Israel Police foreign press spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld reportedly told TPS that the incident was slightly more serious. “When they left the site, the congressmen – who are in their 60s and 70s – were physically pulled aside and held outside the police station,” Rosenfeld said. “Police repeatedly told them in Hebrew that they could not go as they were ‘detained.’ At least one was frisked and made to empty his pockets.”

According to reports, the congressmen spoke about the incident with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who apologized and said that it should have never happened.  

The congressmen are currently in Israel for a week-long trip hosted by an evangelical-Christian group.