JERUSALEM – A gunman on motorcycle shot a prominent hard-line Jewish activist on Wednesday, Israeli police and legislators said, seriously wounding the man and then fleeing in a suspected assassination attempt.
Moshe Feiglin, a lawmaker with the Likud party, identified the man as Yehuda Glick, an American-born advocate for greater Jewish access to a sensitive Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.
The shooting threatens to further heighten tensions in Jerusalem, which has been fraught lately with clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police.
Feiglin said the shooting took place outside a conference promoting Jewish access to the holy site, a hilltop compound in Jerusalem's Old City that has been a flashpoint for violence in the current tension over Jerusalem.
He said a man approached Glick outside the conference and spoke to him in "heavy Arabic-accented Hebrew." He then opened fire at point-blank range and fled.
"The writing was on the wall, the ceiling and the windows. Every Jew who goes up to the Temple Mount is a target for violence," said Feiglin, who pledged to visit the sacred site on Thursday morning, a move seen as a provocation by Palestinians.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police had set up roadblocks and were searching for the suspect.
In recent months, clashes have erupted at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site between Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli police, over what Palestinians see as Jewish encroachment on the site, the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. Israel maintains that it allows free prayer to all, but Palestinians claim Israel is unilaterally widening access to accommodate larger numbers of Jewish worshippers.
Amid the violence, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has recently called for Jews to be banned from the site, urging Palestinians to guard the compound from visiting Jews, who he referred to as a "herd of cattle."
Similar clashes have erupted elsewhere in east Jerusalem, the section of the holy city captured by Israel in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians as their capital. Wednesday's shooting took place at a central venue located across a valley from east Jerusalem.
The violence erupted over the summer after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed by militants in the West Bank. Jewish extremists retaliated by kidnapping and burning to death a Palestinian teenager in east Jerusalem, sparking violent riots.
The unrest continued throughout the summer after Israel attacked Gaza in response to heavy Hamas rocket fire. The arrival of Jewish nationalists into the heart of an Arab neighborhood, coupled with the clashes at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site, has further fueled the tensions.