Jerusalem – Ma’an – An Israeli man was caught by Palestinian security guards at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound early Sunday morning, onlookers and security officials told Ma’an.
Worshipers said the man attempted to reach the Al-Mathara building using a ladder from Az-Zurba alley, which is adjacent to Al-Qattanin Gate in East Jerusalem’s Old City.
Onlookers said a machine gun was strapped to the man’s back. While several people reported a struggle as the man attempted to flee, there were no reports that he tried to open fire. The man was handed over to Israeli police around 2am, as guards believed he “intended to commit a massacre against worshippers at dawn prayer,” one of them insisted.
Later, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld confirmed that a “28-year-old disturbed man” was “picked up” when he was found wandering around the area, but denied that the man was armed.
Individuals purportedly involved in catching the man expressed astonishment when told police were denying he possessed a weapon. “Settlers never wander the Old City unarmed,” one guard quipped.
Shortly after he taken into custody, an Israeli police source told Ma’an that “it was decided he should be transferred to the [Kfar Shaul] mental health center in Givat Shaul,” a West Jerusalem village known in Arabic as Deir Yassin.
Police will hold a meeting at their Jerusalem headquarters to discuss the incident and its potential repercussions, said the same source on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Meanwhile, the website of the Israeli news network Channel 10 reported that police arrested a “Jewish man who tried to infiltrate the Temple Mount compound,” but cast doubt on claims he had actually entered the mosque area or that he was armed. The report also said the assailant was “mentally disturbed” and taken to a psychiatric hospital.
Jerusalem Governor Adnan Al-Husseini rejected that the specific incident in question could have been executed by a mentally unstable individual, rather than someone with radical religious or political beliefs, due to its supposedly technical nature and the planning presumably required to bypass security cameras and barbed wire, as well as the Palestinian and Israeli guards deployed in and around the area.
In an interview, Al-Husseini stopped short of specifically accusing the Israeli government, however, instead speculating that the man was associated with an extremist organization intent on damaging the mosque or harming worshipers nearby.
For his part, Fatah Jerusalem affairs chief Hatem Abdul Qader called the police’s reaction “ironic and indicative” of what he said were Israeli authorities’ double standards for Palestinians and Jews.
“When a Palestinian is thought to be behind an attack, he or she is abruptly classified a terrorist who threatens state security, and interrogators are immediately deployed to begin investigations before he’s transferred to jail,” he said. “However, when the aggressor is a Jew, he’s then classified as insane or eccentric, as every health expert is deployed to treat him before he’s tossed in a mental hospital.”
Abdul Qader added that such policies encourage settlers and extremists “to continue with terror against Palestinians and holy places,” recalling a similar reaction to the radical Christian Zionist Dennis Michael Rohan, who Abdul Qader said was swiftly declared insane and hospitalized shortly after he set fire to Al-Aqsa in 1969.