Mu’taz Hijazi, the man suspected of attempting to assassinate a Temple Mount activist Wednesday night outside Jerusalem’s Begin Heritage Center, was an employee at the institution’s restaurant and previously served for over a decade in Israeli prison.
Hijazi worked in the kitchen at the Terasa restaurant at the center, which has been frequented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ther Israeli leaders. The manager at Terasa Wednesday night told the news site that Hijazi was let off work at 9:40 p.m., roughly a half hour before the shooting of Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick.
His boss told the NRG news website that Hijazi had been working at Terasa for about a year, and said the restaurant was cooperating with the police investigation.
A man identified by Israeli and Palestinian media as Hijazi was killed in a shootout with police in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor Thursday morning.
The deputy director of the Begin Heritage Center told NRG that Hijazi worked for a company that contracted for the restaurant.
“We check the workers who come in here, and there are security guards like at every other public institution,” Moshe Foxman said.
It wasn’t clear whether background checks had been run on Hijazi before he was hired. Palestinian sources said that Hijazi served 11 years in Israeli prison for terrorist activity during the Second Intifada, and was released in 2012. He was reported to have originally been sentenced to six years, but was given an additional five after he attacked prison guards.
In a 2012 interview shortly after his release from prison, Hijazi told the Ramallah-based Al-Quds News outlet that “God willing, I’ll be a thorn in the side of the Zionist project of Judaizing Jerusalem.”
“I’m happy most of all to return to Jerusalem,” he added.
Prior to firing at Glick at the end of the Temple Mount conference at the Begin Center on Wednesday night, Hijazi allegedly approached the rabbi, and told him, “Yehuda, I’m sorry, but the things you said hurt me.” Glick asked him what he meant, but the gunman did not respond, instead gunning him down, Channel 2 reported. Glick remained in very serious but stable condition in the hospital late Thursday.
Police cornered Hijazi at his home in Abu Tor, an Arab-Jewish neighborhood that lies on the seam line between East and West Jerusalem, Thursday morning. Israeli authorities said that they attempted to arrest Hijazi on suspicion of shooting Glick four times, but that he opened fire, was shot and killed.
Hijazi’s body was reportedly taken into Israeli custody, and his brother and father were detained by police. According to Palestinian Quds TV, Hijazi’s family said his house would be demolished within 24 hours.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas both praised the shooting of Glick on Thursday. Islamic Jihad spokesperson in Gaza Daud Shihab said that the “radical Zionist” got what was coming to him, and called him one of the most dangerous inciters. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum praised the “heroic attack” and called on East Jerusalem residents and Palestinians in general to carry out more terrorist attacks against Israel.
Fatah’s youth movement in Jordan also claimed in a message posted Thursday morning on the movement’s Facebook page that Hijazi belonged to the organization.
“With great pride Fatah salutes the martyr its heroic ‘martyr of Jerusalem’ Mu’taz Hijazi, who carried out the assassination of Rabbi Yehuda Glick,” the poster read. Glick remained in serious but stable condition Thursday after undergoing surgery on four gunshot wounds to the abdomen, chest, hand and neck.
A website affiliated with also Islamic Jihad claimed that Hijazi was one of its members. It published a bio of Hijazi on its website, noting that he was arrested in 2000, burned and destroyed “settler property in occupied Jerusalem,” attacked two jailers with a razor after they cursed him using the name of God, beat an interrogator who had tortured him during an investigation, frequented the Al-Aqsa mosque, and spent 10 of his 11 years in jail in solitary confinement.
Israeli security officials were investigating the possibility that Hijazi was responsible for the shooting of IDF soldier Chen Schwartz in Jerusalem during this summer’s conflict with the Gaza Strip. Schwartz was shot twice in the stomach on Mount Scopus and was critically injured.