JERUSALEM — A private security guard shot and killed a Jewish man at a key Jerusalem holy site Friday, Israeli police said, after the man reportedly shouted in Arabic.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the guard "fired a number of shots" at the man, a 46-year-old Israeli, who appeared suspicious. The guard told police the man shouted "Allahu Akbar" — "God is great!" in Arabic — and had his hands in his pockets. Arab militants often shout that phrase before carrying out an attack.
The guard said he opened fire because he suspected the man had a weapon in his pocket and thought he may be about to launch an attack, the police spokesman said. When asked if a weapon was found on the man's body, Rosenfeld said he had no more details.
Police identified the man as an Israeli Jew but did not release his name.
Rosenfeld told The Associated Press that the guard was questioned after the shooting, and he was scheduled to appear in court later Friday to determine whether he will remain in police custody.
Israel Radio reported the guard was 25 years old and that he worked as a security guard for more than a year.
The incident at the Western Wall highlighted smoldering tensions in the area. The site is an outside wall of a disputed hilltop compound that has been a flashpoint for clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, although in recent years that violence has been relatively muted.
The hilltop is one of the region's most sensitive sites. It is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, where the two biblical Jewish Temples stood. The Western Wall, a remnant of Temple compound, is the holiest site where Jews can pray. Muslims call the compound the Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, marking the place where they believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Israeli media said the man was a regular visitor to the holy site, describing him as an "eccentric" who was known to act strangely.
"I don't understand why he was shot. Everyone here knows him and his behavior. He has often acted nervously. What happened here isn't normal," David Dahan, who was at the site at the time of the shooting, told the Israeli news site YNet.
The incident unfolded at the rear of the large plaza in front of the Western Wall, away from worshippers.