Israelis wave national flags next to security personnel securing an area in Jerusalem where a far-right activist was shot and wounded,
Israelis wave national flags next to security personnel securing an area in Jerusalem where a far-right activist was shot and wounded,Reuters

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has hit back at Israeli decision to shut down the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem after the attempted assassination of a prominent hardline Jewish activist calling it a "declaration of war".

For the first time since 2000, Israeli authorities completely shut down the compound - which is known as Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary) among Muslims and Temple Mount to Jews. It came after Muslim worshippers under the age of 60 had already been barred from entering the holy site after days of violent clashes.

American-born Yehuda Glick, an advocate for greater Jewish access to the compound, was shot and wounded by a gunman on a motorcycle, according to Israeli lawmaker Moshe Feiglin.

Israeli public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovich announced that the al-Aqsa mosque would be closed until further notice. The shooting occurred outside a conference promoting Jewish access to Temple Mount, which has been at the heart of recent violence in Jerusalem. The man with "heavy Arabic-accented Hebrew" opened fire at point-blank range and fled, according to Al Jazeera.

Israeli police found and killed a Palestinian who they described as the main suspect in the attempted assassination of Glick.

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An Israeli woman and a Palestinian woman gesture at one another during a protest over access to Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old CityReuters

The closure of al-Aqsa compound triggered a heated statement by Abbas.

"This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation," his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina quoted him as saying.

Clashes started in Jerusalem's holy site when police allowed Israeli right-wingers and ultra-Orthodox Jews to enter the compound to observe the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or the feast of the Tabernacles.

The Haram al-Sharif compound, known as Temple Mount to Jews, sits just above the Western Wall plaza, where Jews are allowed to pray.

Temple Mount is considered the holiest site for Jews, as it is the place where God chose the Divine Presence to rest. According to scripture, it is where God gathered dust to create Adam, and also the location where Abraham tied up Isaac. It was also the place where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by Romans in 70 AD.

According to mainstream Judaism, Jews are forbidden from entering Temple Mount for fear they would stumble upon and profane the "Holy of Holies," or the inner sanctum of the Second Temple. This is also why the chief rabbinate has always opposed Jewish worship in the compound.

The Mount is Islam's third holiest site after Mecca and Medina and contains the al-Aqsa mosque. It is considered to be the place where Muhammad travelled to Jerusalem and ascended to heaven.

The Haram al-Sharif site has been administered by an Islamic Waqf (trust), under the authority of Jordan, since the crusades.

Last year, Arab-Israeli Members of the Knesset were expelled from a parliamentary meeting to discuss plans for the Haram al-Sharif. They were protesting against what they perceive as a desecration of the site, which has been stormed several times by Jewish extremists.

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Israeli forces at the holy site in Jerusalem, which has huge significance for both Muslim and Jewish peopleTwitter