A Palestinian man suspected of shooting and crtically wounding prominent right-wing Israeli activist Yehuda Glick was shot dead early Thursday morning, the Israeli security services said.
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Palestinian sources named the gunman as Muataz Hijazi, 32.
Hijazi worked in the restaurant at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, where an event was held Wednesday night for the LIBA Initiative for Jewish Freedom on the Temple Mount, an organization founded by Glick.
According to members of Hijazi's family, Israeli security forces were waiting for him when he returned by motorcycle to his home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Abu Tor around 5 A.M. Thursday.
According to the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service, Hijazi attempted to evade arrest by climbing onto the roof of his house and hiding there behind solar panels. When the Police Special Anti-Terror Unit ("Yamam" in Hebrew) closed in on him, he began shooting. The unit fired back, killing him.
The Shin Bet said Hijazi was released from prison in 2012 after serving 11 years. He was arrested in 2000 during the second intifada for membership in Islamic Jihad and involvement in disturbances of the peace, and sentenced to six years. During his stay in prison he was convicted of assaulting a guard and sentenced to an additional five years. According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, Hijazi had not been identified with any organization for the last few years.
The security services said they are investigating whether Hijazi was involved in a similar attack on the slopes of Mount Scopus last August, when a man on a motorcycle opened fire at an Israeli soldier, severely wounding him.
Islamic Jihad says gunman was member
slamic Jihad published an obituary notice for Hijazi on Thursday morning, saying he was a member of the organization. However, the organization did not take responsibility for the attack; the statement did not say Hijazi was ordered to carry out the shooting by Islamic Jihad's leadership in the Gaza Strip or abroad.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab said Glick 'got what he deserved' because he was one of the most dangerous inciters to actions against the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian people. Shehad also warned against the implications of closing Al Aqsa, calling it a highly dangerous move.
Police have arrested two employees at the restaurant where Hijazi worked, and, according to Hijazi's family, his father and brother are being interrogated.
Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said that as far as police knew, there had been no immediate threat on Glick's life.
"He was a known person who was active around the Temple Mount, and was recently removed from the site," Danino said.
Asked if the attempted murder heralded a new, third intifada, Danino said, "The [recent] series of events, which are very serious, still doesn't come close to an intifada, and we will not let it come close to that."
Shortly after Hijazi was killed, angry crowds of Palestinians converged near his family's home.
In the Old City of Jerusalem, flares were fired at police and Border Police, a spokesman for the Jerusalem police said. Troops arrested a 20-year-old resident of the Old City.
A high alert was declared in the capital and the Temple Mount was completely closed off for the first time since former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the site in September 2000, touching off riots that started the second intifada.
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said hundreds of additional police have been sent into Jerusalem since the morning, on top of the already bolstered forces that have been operating in the city since the attack on the light rail last week in which riders leaving the train were mowed down, two of them fatally, by a Palestinian terrorist in a car.
The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ruled that Hijazi's funeral will be held Thursday at 11:00 P.M. and that 45 people may attend; the police asked for a limit of 20 mourners. Before the body is handed over at the Muslim cemetery near the Temple Mount, police will conduct external examinations of the body, in the presence of a doctor present on behalf of the family.
Meanwhile, four right-wing activists were arrested close to the Mugrabi Bridge at the entrance to the Temple Mount after trying to enter the area against police orders. Several dozen right-wing activists demonstrated near the Western Wall plaza to call for the Temple Mount to be opened to Jews. The activists planned to march later Thursday around the Temple Mount. A large contingent of police officers was escorting and guarding them.
Meanwhile, Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem said Thursday that Glick's condition remained critical yet stable.
Glick, who often led groups of Jews to visit the Temple Mount, founded an organization advocating that Jews be allowed to pray freely there, which would mark a highly volatile change to the delicate status quo at the site, which is also holy to Muslims, who call it the Noble Sanctuary. The Temple Mount movement as a whole advocates rebuilding the Jewish Temple on the mount in place of Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Netanyahu, Abbas trade accusations
Following a meeting with aides, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for calm in the city. He accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of being responsible for the escalation in the city. "We're facing a wave of incitement by radical Islamic elements as well as by the Palestinian Authority chairman ... who said that Jews must absolutely be prevented from going on to the Temple Mount,"
Abbas issued a harsh response to the closure of the Al Aqsa Mosque Thursday morning, saying it amounted to "a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nation."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon also said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was responsible for violence directed at Jews.
In a press statement, Ya'alon said "the attempt to assassinate Yehuda Glick is another severe stage in the continuing Palestinian incitement against Jews and against the State of Israel."
"When Abbas spreads lies and incitement about the rights of Jews living in their own land, to their own worshipping, the result is terrorism of the kind directed against Yehuda Glick. This is Abbas and this is the Palestinian Authority he leads."
Ya'alon also called for restraint in Jerusalem and "in general," and said Israeli security services will keep tracking down all terrorists and their handlers.
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) arrived at the entrance to the Temple Mount Thursday morning. Standing outside the compound, he told reporters that opening the site to Jews would be the appropriate response to Glick's shooting.
Feiglin, who said he had attended the conference at the Begin Center and witnessed Glick's shooting, added: "The writing was on the wall, and still is on all possible walls. The surrender to Arab violence on the mount, the persecution of Jews, and the forbidding of prayer encourage the murderous violence to spill out of the mount to all parts of the land."
Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On strongly condemned the assassination attempt on Glick, saying, "No political argument can justify acts of terror and violence." However, she added, "The attempts by right-wing activists to ascend the Temple Mount are not made solely for the sake of exercising their right to worship, but in an attempt to advance a nationalist agenda in order to upset the status quo."
Finance Minister Yair Lapid said, "Terrorists need to know that we will find them and eliminate them wherever they are. We will not be deterred. Jerusalem is ours and we will continue to build and live in the city and we are not asking anyone's permission. It is our capital."
He added, "I call on people to behave responsibly so as not to harm innocents, which would would be immoral and against Jewish values."