JERUSALEM. On Sunday morning, a Palestinian teacher disguised as an ultra-Orthodox Jew shot an Israeli guide with automatic weapons near the holiest site in Jerusalem, Israeli officials said. It was the first murder of an Israeli Israeli Jew by an armed Palestinian since May.
The militant Islamist group Hamas said the perpetrator was a senior member of its movement in East Jerusalem.
The attack immediately prompted calls by right-wing Israelis to install metal detectors near the entrances to the sacred site known as the Temple Mount for Jews and the Noble Sanctuary or Aksa Mosque Complex for Muslims – a proposal that sparked deadly unrest among Palestinians when Israel last tried to implement this. idea in 2017. Such a plan could also exacerbate tensions within Israel’s fragile ruling coalition, a diverse alliance that includes Jewish right-wing parties and an Arab group.
Tensions around the site, sacred to both Jews and Muslims, have played an important role in the prelude to the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas this year.
During Sunday’s attack, the perpetrator opened fire on at least three civilians and two police officers shortly after 9 a.m. in an alley outside the scene. According to Magen David Adom, the Israeli branch of the International Red Cross, one civilian was shot in the head, a second civilian was moderately injured, and two police officers and a third civilian were slightly injured.
The victim was later named by the police as Eliyahu Kay, the guide who drove to work at the Western Wall, the last surviving part of an ancient Jewish temple destroyed in antiquity.
According to Omer Bar Lev, the Israeli minister in charge of police, the attacker was dressed in ultra-Orthodox Jewish clothing and was shot and killed by security personnel seconds after the attack.
In the Israeli and Palestinian media, the perpetrator has been identified as 42-year-old Fadi Abu Shhaidem, a teacher from the Palestinian region of East Jerusalem. In a statement released by Hamas-owned TV, he was identified as one of the high-ranking leaders of the movement in Shuafat, a predominantly Palestinian region of East Jerusalem whose families fled the fighting during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
In a statement, Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and is considered a terrorist group in the United States, Israel and elsewhere, praised the attacker and acknowledged his role in the movement, but did not take direct responsibility for the attack.
Political violence is common in the Old City of Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel from Jordan during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and later annexed. Police killed a second Palestinian attacker in the Old City last week after a separate attack and shot dead two more in failed attempts in September.
Palestinians regard the Old City as occupied and hope that it will become part of the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Sunday’s attack was relatively unusual because it used firearms and because such attacks did not often result in the death of Israeli civilians. In other recent attempts in the Old City, attackers used knives and attacked security personnel, but the attackers were shot dead by the police before they could kill anyone.
In a statement, Mr Bar Lev said the attacker’s wife left for another country three days ago, implying some degree of foresight in the attack.
Following the assassination, the second government minister, Joaz Hendel, called for the installation of metal detectors outside the Aksa complex – a move originally proposed by Israel in 2017, but interrupted after it led to violence that killed several people.
For Jews, the Temple Mount is considered the most sacred place in Judaism, because it once housed two temples in which, according to tradition, the presence of God was revealed. For Palestinians, the Noble Sanctuary is considered a central element of their national identity, because in the Islamic tradition, this is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
A visit to the site in 2000 by Ariel Sharon, then the leader of the Israeli opposition, who became prime minister a year later, is seen as one of the main sparks of the second Palestinian intifada or rebellion.
Since 1967, Israel has allowed the Jordanian government to maintain administrative oversight of the site and nominally only allows Jews to visit the complex and not pray there. But Israel also maintains overall security oversight and controls access. Israeli police have recently begun quietly permitting Jewish prayer at the site and have carried out frequent raids during the riots. Several Israeli raids in April and May served as the backdrop for the subsequent 11-day war between Israel and militants in Gaza.
Serious escalations in Gaza have been avoided since May, as both sides negotiate indirectly to stabilize the ceasefire. But in the occupied West Bank, low-level violence has skyrocketed. According to records compiled by the United Nations, 76 Palestinians have been killed in protests, clashes and raids in the West Bank this year – more than in any year since 2016. five-year high, according to UN figures.
At least 12 Israelis were killed in the West Bank in 2021, more than in 2019 or 2020 but fewer than in 2017 or 2018.
Irit Posner Garshovitzcontributed to the research.