Israel decided Wednesday night to prohibit access to the Temple Mount Thursday to both Muslim and Jewish worshipers and visitors until further notice, following the shooting in Jerusalem of Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a right-wing activist with the Temple Mount Faithful.
Jerusalem District Police Commander Moshe Edri together with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch assessed intelligence reports on the ground, according to a police spokesman, and issued a directive barring Muslims and Jews from accessing the holy site.
Right-wing activists, including some members of Knesset, had called to march on the Temple Mount en masse Thursday morning in response to the suspected attempted assassination which left Glick in serious, but stable, condition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for an increased police presence in Jerusalem, as security forces were on high alert across the country.
“We are all praying for Yehudah’s well-being,” said Netanyahu.
Glick was shot three times outside the Jerusalem’s Begin Center following a conference about the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. Police were still searching for the unidentified assailant who was wearing a helmet and was said to have fled the scene on a motorcycle.
Glick had finished a speech at a conference at the Begin Center, entitled “Israel returns to the Temple Mount.” Eyewitnesses said that after the event, a man with an Arabic accent approached Glick and asked him for his identity. The man then shot the victim, got on the motorcycle and fled, suggesting this was an assassination attempt on Glick specifically.
Moriah Halamish, who was at the conference, described the suspected gunman.
“When the conference ended, we went outside. No one was there except a man with dark skin, dressed in black, waiting by a motorcycle. He approached Yehudah and addressed him, telling him ‘Yehudah, I’m sorry, you’ve made me angry,’ before firing [his weapon]. He spoke with a clear Arabic accent,” she said.
Outside Begin heritage building were attempted assassination took place this evening. pic.twitter.com/BxGI5UtkSz
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) October 29, 2014
Channel 2 reported Wednesday night following the incident that Glick had turned to police at least five times recently to complain about threats to his life.
A message on a jihadist Palestinian website about the conference he attended prior to the shooting, which included details on the time, location and attendees, was being looked into by police, Channel 2 reported. The post also called on Palestinians to prevent the meeting, according to the report.
Glick’s father, Professor Shimon Glick, said his family was worried for his son’s well-being after he received death threats for his Temple Mount activities. “I was very worried. My wife was very worried,” he told Channel 2.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t receive proper protection. He showed me on Facebook the threats against him. I knew this would happen and asked him to stop his activities,” he told Ynet.
Glick was hospitalized at Shaare Tzedek Medical Center where his condition was stabilized, doctors said. Dr. Ofer Naim, the head of the hospital’s trauma unit, said Glick was in the final stages of surgery to save his life and will need an additional operation on Thursday. Naim described bullet wounds to the stomach and lungs and said his life remained in danger.
Picture of Yehuda Glick just before he was shot this evening pic.twitter.com/X9KdOXYuIA
— Smartguy (@Gr8_guy) October 29, 2014
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who was at the event, said the incident was “terrible but quite expected,” Ynet reported.
“Yehudah Glick was threatened all the time. The fact that permanent security was not assigned to him is a failure,” he said.
Feiglin also said he would go up to the Temple Mount on Thursday at 7:30 a.m.
Fellow right-wing MK Miri Regev was also at the event.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel, a proponent of a Jewish presence in east Jerusalem, said that the bullets fired at Glick “were aimed at all Jews who wish to pray on the Temple Mount,” i24 news reported. He also demanded open Jewish access to the site in response.
Palestinians in the Old City of Jerusalem set off fireworks in celebration.
Several dozen Israelis demonstrated outside the Begin Center Wednesday night, wrapping themselves in Israeli flags and calling on police to “eliminate terror.”
US-born Yehudah Glick, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Othniel, near Hebron, previously worked as the executive director of the Temple Institute, an organization that prepares vessels and garments for a future Jewish temple, before joining the Temple Mount Faithful.
Glick was arrested last October, and barred by police from the Temple Mount, according to the Forward. The decision was reversed after a 12-day hunger strike.
“I believe that the Temple Mount represents a place that has potential for being an international center for religious tolerance,” he told the Forward.
The circumstances of the incident remained unclear, but the prevailing suspicion is that the attempted murder was politically motivated.
The shooting came amid weeks of rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem. Last week a Palestinian man drove a car into a crowded train platform located along the seam separating East and West Jerusalem, killing two. In the days following, Palestinians have clashed continuously with Israeli police in Arab neighborhoods of the capital. Israel responded to the rise in violence by increasing its police presence, deploying an additional 1,000 officers to the city.
The shooting took place as diplomats convened a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the growing tensions in Jerusalem.