JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel closed the Temple Mount to Muslim worshippers and to Jewish and non-Jewish visitors in the wake of the attempted assassination of an Israeli activist.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the closure of the holy site on early Thursday, hours after Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick was shot in Jerusalem, a “declaration of war.”
“This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places, and on the Arab and Islamic nation,” Abbas said, according to his spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina.
Glick, who is also an American citizen, was shot at close range three times Wednesday night in the chest and stomach by an assailant on a motorcycle who fled the scene. He remains in serious condition at Shaarey Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he underwent surgery following the attack. Jonathan Halevy, director-general of Shaare Zedek, said Thursday that Glick’s life was still in danger.
The assailant, identified later by Israel Police as Muataz Hijazi, an operative for the Islamic Jihad terror group, was killed Thursday morning in a shootout with police at his eastern Jerusalem home.
Glick heads the Temple Mount Faithful organization, which advocates building a Third Temple on the holy site. Before the shooting, he spoke at a conference at the Begin Center dealing with Jewish rights at the Temple Mount. He reportedly had received several threats on his life in recent weeks.
Israel Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Thursday that Abbas’ repeated statements that Jews have no claim on the Temple Mount led to the shooting.
“The assassination attempt on Yehuda Glick is another serious step in the Palestinian incitement against Jews and against the State of Israel,” Yaalon said. “When Abu Mazen [Abbas] spreads lies and venom about the rights of Jews to worship in their land the result is terror, as we saw yesterday.”
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu also chided the international community for its silence on the issue of the Temple Mount in a statement in which he also wished Glick a full recovery.
“A few days ago, I said that we were facing a wave of incitement by radical Islamic elements and by Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen, who said that Jews must be prevented from going up to the Temple Mount by any means possible. I still have not heard from the international community so much as one word of condemnation for these inflammatory remarks,” Netanyahu said. “The international community needs to stop its hypocrisy and take action against inciters, against those who try to change the status quo.”
He also called for restraint by activists on both sides.
Knesset lawmaker Moshe Feiglin of the Jewish Leadership faction of the Likud party, who also spoke at the Wednesday night conference, was prevented by police from entering the Temple Mount on Thursday morning. Following the shooting, Feiglin had called for a Jewish march on the Temple Mount.
Other activists joined Feiglin at the entrance to the Temple Mount on Thursday morning, where they performed morning prayers.
“The assassin achieved his aim. There are no Jews on Temple Mount,” Feiglin said at the site.