Israel's decision to close a Jerusalem religious site holy to Muslim and Jewish worshippers incited critics Thursday, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calling it a "declaration of war." Temple Mount, also known as the Al-Aqsa mosque, was shuttered to all visitors after the shooting of Jewish activist Yehuda Glick Wednesday.
"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' spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh quoted him as saying, according to AFP. "We hold the Israeli government responsible for this dangerous escalation in Jerusalem that has reached its peak through the closure of the Al-Aqsa mosque this morning."
The mosque is Islam's third-holiest site and is also a sacred place of worship for Jews because it once housed two Jewish temples. Jews, however, are not allowed to pray at the site to avoid potential violence. The holy site was closed early Thursday after a man on a motorbike tried to gun down Glick, who has advocated to secure Jewish prayer rights at the mosque.
Clashes have broken out repeatedly in recent weeks, as an increasing numbers of Jews have visited the religious area for the Jewish holidays. The visits angered some Palestinians, who claim that Jews are trying to take back the site. Right-wing activists planned to march on the Temple Mount Thursday to protest Glick's attempted assassination, according to the Times of Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for an increased police presence in Jerusalem and put security forces on high alert across the country.
Glick was shot three times outside Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center after he attended a conference about the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. Glick was taken to the Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, where his condition remains “very serious, yet stable,” according to a report by Haaretz. Glick was barred by police from Temple Mount last year.
Israeli police shot Moatez Higazi, the Palestinian man suspected of shooting Glick, at an apartment near the assassination attempt. He had spent more than 11 years in an Israeli prison and was released in 2012, Al-Jazeera reported.
Temple Mount is said to be the site where God gathered dust to create Adam, the first man. Jewish tradition also claims the Temple Mount is the site where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son to please God before before an angel intervened. Israeli King Solomon also allegedly constructed the first Jewish temple on the mount, including the Holy of Holies, a room that housed the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments, according to CNN.
For Muslims, the al-Aqsa mosque ranks just behind Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia for its religious importance. The site houses the Dome of the Rock, where the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven.