Jerusalem Tensions over Jerusalems most hotly contested holy site flared Thursday after a prominent rightist campaigner for Jewish prayer there was shot in an apparent assassination attempt, and police tracked down and killed an Arab they said was the attacker.
American-born Yehuda Glick, 48, who led efforts to allow Jews to pray on the plaza known to Israelis as the Temple Mount, the site of Al-Aqsa mosque, was reported in serious but stable condition after he was shot multiple times Wednesday night as he left a gathering of activists. The shooter sped away on a motorcycle.
Early Thursday, a police counterterrorism unit shot and killed Moataz Hijazi, 32, in the mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood of Abu Tor, which straddles the old border between east and west Jerusalem.
Hijazi worked in a restaurant in the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in west Jerusalem, where Glick had attended the meeting. Moria Halamish, who was with Glick as he left the meeting, told Israel Radio that the shooter approached him outside the center, addressed him by name and said in Arabic-accented Hebrew, Im sorry I have to do this, but you really hurt me, before opening fire.
Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said that Hijazi, a former prisoner who had served more than a decade in Israeli jails, fired on officers who had surrounded his house hours after the shooting. Relatives and neighbors accused the police of an execution-style killing, showing reporters multiple bullet holes on a rooftop where the suspects body was found.
The spike of violence raised fears of a broader eruption of unrest triggered by mounting tensions surrounding the compound in Jerusalems Old City. It is revered by Jews as the site of the first and second Jewish temples and by Muslims as their third holiest shrine, the place toward which the Prophet Muhammad prayed before God instructed him to turn toward Mecca.
There have been increased clashes at the compound between Muslim youths and police in recent weeks, triggered by alarm over increased visits by right-wing Jewish activists intent on pressing the Israeli authorities to allow Jews to pray at the site.
Under arrangements established after Israel captured the area in the 1967 Six-Day War, the Al-Aqsa mosque plaza is reserved solely for Muslim worship, though Israelis and foreigners are allowed to visit.
In response to the attack on Glick, Israeli authorities banned all entry to the compound for the first time in 14 years, triggering a sharp protest from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who called the Muslim and Christian sacred sites in Jerusalem a red line.
Israeli officials said later that Al-Aqsa would be opened for prayers on Friday, but men under 50 would be barred to prevent further unrest.