Israel closes the Temple Mount, but now it will allow limited access to the Muslim shrines on a contested Jerusalem hilltop.
The decision to close and re-open comes after violence and a statement of “declaration of war” from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, according to News Max. Israeli police said the site was closed “to prevent disturbances” after a drive-by shooting of right-wing activist Yehuda Glick. The restrictions are to stop demonstrations by young Muslim men.
Police said that worshipers who are 50 or older will be admitted to the Temple Mount The earlier announcement of the Temple Mount’s closure came as Israel tightened a security clampdown in Arab areas of Jerusalem, after the Oct. 29 shooting of Glick, who was seriously injured. A Palestinian suspected of carrying out the attack was killed in a gun-battle with police.
Glick, an American immigrant, heads a group demanding rights for Jewish prayer at the hilltop shrine. The Temple Mount in Israel has seen repeated clashes over the past few months between Palestinians and security officers.
Intelligence services identified the shooter as Muataz Hijazi, 32, a Palestinian from Jerusalem who was released from jail two years ago after serving a 10-year sentence for security offenses, according to the Los Angeles Times. Israeli authorities said Hijazi, who worked at the restaurant at the heritage center, waited for Glick after a work shift.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said Israel’s decision to close the Temple Mount is another example of “continued Israeli aggression and dangerous escalation is tantamount to a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and their holy sites.”
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, in an e-mailed statement, accused Abbas of “spreading lies and hate against the right of Jews to their land and freedom of worship,” and called the shooting of Glick “another grave phase in the ongoing Palestinian incitement.”
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said that before yesterday, the Temple Mount hadn’t been barred to Muslim worshipers since 2000. A visit by Ariel Sharon that year, before he was elected prime minister, set off a chain of violence that evolved into the second Palestinian uprising against Israel.
Muslims believe their Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven from the site, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, which includes the silver-capped mosque and gold-capped Dome of the Rock, is Islam’s third-holiest site. Jews venerate the area as the site of their biblical temples. The Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, is located at the foot of the Temple Mount complex.
As Israel closed the Temple Mount, tensions have only grown. Since its construction in the seventh century, the Haram al-Sharif, now controlled by an Islamic trust, has been an almost constant source of tension between Muslims and Jews, CNN notes.