Abbas says Israel has “declared war on the Palestinian people” by closing the Al Aqsa compound following the assassination attempt of right wing activist Yehuda Glick.
Rabbi and right wing activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick was shot three times outside the Begin Centre in central Jerusalem on Wednesday evening after a conference on Jewish presence on the Temple Mount/ Al Aqsa compound. He was approached by a man with a heavy Arab accent who sought to confirm Glick’s identity, and then said “You have made me angry” before opening fire. The attacker escaped on a motorcycle but was tracked to the Silwan area of East Jerusalem where he was shot and killed by Israeli forces. His identity has not formerly been identified, but he has been named by Israeli media as 32 year old Muataz Hijazi, a former Palestinian prisoner and alleged member of Islamic Jihad.
Glick is head of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, and has worked for years for the right of Jews to pray at their holiest site. He has been banned from the site on several occasions due to his ulterior motives, which was not simply to guide a group of “tourists” but rather to promote the building of the Third Temple on the site and to pray, an action which is forbidden by Israeli police for fear it could provoke Muslim worshippers. Glick once said: “While Israel’s Supreme Court has recognized the right of Jewish worship on the Temple Mount, it has left the implementation of those basic civil and religious rights to police discretion. This in turn has led to consistent civil rights violations in the name of short sighted self-serving expediencies”. Last year he went on a twelve day hunger strike until he was allowed to access the site again. Despite Glick having been threatened several times by extremist Palestinians, he was filmed this July praying together with Muslims on the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa compound, during which he and his Muslim comrades chanted together “there is no god except God/Allah/Elohim” in both Hebrew and Arabic (Youtube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wacgNEgdiUg) . Today, his condition is said to be stable but still life-threatening. He had bullet wounds in the neck, chest, stomach and hand.
Tensions have flared between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem since this summer, with the kidnapping of three Israeli boys and the ensuing Gaza war. A Palestinian teenager was burned alive in July, and two people were killed this week by a Palestinian running them down at a tram stop, allegedly a terror attack though the suspect was killed immediately after thus a full investigation is now impossible. Following last night’s attack the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa Mosque are closed to both Muslims and Jews until further notice, after right-wing politician Moshe Feiglin and other far right activists called on Israelis to march en masse to the mount today in response to the assassination attempt. Last night, some Palestinians set off fireworks in celebration of the attack, while groups of Israelis gathered draped in Israeli flags outside the Begin centre.
An extra 1,000 police have been deployed to Jerusalem since last week, further heightening tensions particularly in East Jerusalem, reeling from the sudden overnight influx of more settlers in the Silwan neighbourhood. This week, Israel gave the green light to 1,000 more settler homes in East Jerusalem, resisting international pressure by the UN and US to rescind this decision. Netanyahu is adamant that Israel will continue to build in its “eternal capital” while Jordan’s Foreign Minister calls it “a clear violation of Israel’s obligation as anchored in the peace treaty between the two countries”. Housing Minister Uri Ariel is said to be even considering moving into the Silwan area as a message of support for the settlers. A further sign of current tensions, “Death to Arabs” was sprayed onto the walls of the Max Rayne School in Jerusalem last night seven times. The Max Rayne School is a Hand in Hand school which allows Jewish and Arab children to learn together- a rare expression of coexistence, now also under attack.
This morning Abbas has announced that the closing of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound is ‘tantamount to declaring war on the Palestinian people’. Social Media sites are buzzing with calls for Palestinians all over the West Bank to join the ‘intifada”. Tensions have been bubbling steadily over recent months- have they now come to the boil?