A lot has been written recently on the findings SE to the temple mount. Bro Leen Ritmeyer has somewhat to say on these findings: http://www.ritmeyer.com/2011/06/22/the-water-gate-of-jerusalem/
But what is Ophel?
Ophel comes from a root word meaning to rise up or be lifted up. The word is used of the swellings experienced by the Philistines, [some thought to be the bites of infected lice, the token represented in the rats or mice alongside the “emerods” or ophel] 1 Sam 5:6,9,12; 6:4,5 cf Deut 28:27. The word is translated as tower 2 Kings 5:24; forts Isa 32:14 and as “Ophel” in 2 Chron 27:3; ; 33:14; Neh 3;27; 11:21 and as “strong hold” of the daughter of Zion Micah 3:8. Manasseh was to encompass the walls and raise Ophel to a “great height” 2 Chron 27:3.
The eastern wall of the temple mount is considered to continue into the eastern margin of Ophel, running from Siloam to the temple at an eastern cloister at the place called Ophel (1,2,3). This would seem to agree with the words of Nehemiah where the Nethinim dwelt in Ophel unto the place over against the water gate toward the east 3:26. It has been suggested that the Arabic name for Ophel is ed-Dhak’ar means back or ridge, and relates the ridge running between the Tyropean (cheesemakers) valley and the Kidron and extends for around 450 metres from the southern wall of the temple, but this may extend the area further than what is originally intended.
It was past the Ophel area that the king would pass up to worship in the temple. There were a number of gates on the southern wall including the Huldah (mole or burrowing) gate through which the king could ascend. The Ophel no doubt as well as being a built up area was also spiritually the area of lifting up of the values of deity through worship on the temple mount.
ref: (1) Jerusalem the topography, economics, and history from the earliest times to AD70 G A Smith vol1 pg 199 (2) Josephus war: v.4.2 (3)The recovery of Jerusalem; a narrative of exploration and discovery in the city and holy land, Sir Charles William Wilson, Sir Charles Warren pg 288f