JERUSALEM: French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday visits the Al-Aqsa compound, Islam's third-holiest site. - AFP

JERUSALEM: When French President Emmanuel Macron visited Jerusalem's Old City yesterday, he also trod in the footsteps of one of his predecessors, Jacques Chirac, by engaging in a heated argument with Israeli security. The altercation broke out when Israeli security forces pushed past the French detail and were first to enter the Church of Saint Anne, which is French state property.

"Everybody knows the rules. I don't like what you did in front of me," an animated Macron loudly told the Israeli personnel, speaking in English, in the crush to enter the building, which remains French territory under international treaties. "Go out - outside please!" he added in a raised voice in scenes captured in video footage that quickly spread on social media.

The Roman Catholic church, located at the start of Via Dolorosa in the Old City's Muslim Quarter, has been part of France's territories in the Holy Land since the 1850s. The rules that have been in place "for centuries", Macron told the Israeli officers, "will not change with me, I can tell you, OK? So everybody, respect the rules. Nobody has to provoke nobody."

French diplomats had cautioned that they want to leave little room for mishaps on Macron's trip. Earlier yesterday, a separate squabble ensued when Israeli police tried to enter St Anne ahead of Macron's visit. The 42-year-old head of state had seen his visit to St Anne as a symbolic stop underscoring Paris' historical influence in the region. Before heading to the church, Macron walked through the Old City, speaking to shopkeepers and stopping by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He later visited the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Macron will today attend a ceremony to commemorate the liberation 75 years ago of Nazi Germany's Auschwitz death camp in what was then occupied Poland. Yesterday's tense scenes recalled a 1996 Jerusalem visit by late former president Chirac during which he also lost his cool with Israeli security agents who were pressing him to move on. Chirac heatedly told them their actions were a "provocation" and angrily asked: "What do you want? Me to go back to my plane and go back to France, is that what you want?" - Agencies