An Israeli security guard Friday morning shot and killed a Jewish man at the Western Wall site in Jerusalem after he reportedly yelled “Allahu Akbar” and reached into his pocket. Israeli media quoted emergency personnel who reported at least half a dozen bullets were fired.
Initial reports said the incident began when the man started screaming in the public restroom adjacent to the holy site.
Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld tells the Jerusalem Post that the guard opened fire after suspecting him to be a Palestinian terrorist, but that the victim was in fact a 46-year-old Jewish man. "The fact he shouted Allahu Akbar, that seems to be why the security guard drew his weapon and fired a number of shots at him," Rosenfeld said.
The Arabic words mean “Allah is greatest,” but it’s a phrase that’s been declared before many terrorist attacks.
"We are looking into what (the dead man's)... motives were," Rosenfeld added.
Ma'ariv spoke to [Hebrew link] Ze’evi Hesed of Israel’s emergency response service Magen David Adom who says he saw the man on the ground on the pathway leading to the bathroom. “He was shot in a number of places in his body and appeared to be dead. Regrettably, there was nothing we could do so we pronounced him dead.”
David Leff who is himself a volunteer medic and happened to be praying with his family at the Wall told Ma’ariv, “Suddenly, we heard the sound of gunshots. I ran over there and began resuscitation actions.”
Ma’ariv spoke with security guards who work regularly at the sensitive site who said that they knew the victim as one who occasionally shouts. They said that the security guard who shot him was on loan from out of town and thus became startled by the man’s behavior.
That assessment was echoed by another eyewitness who knew the slain man. “I don’t understand why he was shot. Everybody knows him and his behavior. He often acted in a nervous manner. What has happened here is not normal,” David Dahan told the Times of Israel.
“He began screaming and after that he approached the bathroom. After a short time, I heard at least seven or 10 gunshots,” Dahan added.
The Western Wall is the holiest site in Judaism, and is normally filled with hundreds of worshipers in the hours before the Jewish Sabbath. Israeli media report that the area was closed off to visitors while police were investigating the incident.
The Western Wall’s Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch expressed his deep sorrow over the shooting. “Regardless of the circumstances, such an incident is a grave tragedy,” he said.