A Jewish Israeli man was shot and killed by a security guard at the Western Wall early on Friday morning after shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is Great).
The 46-year-old Israeli, who was well known in Jerusalem's Old City and is reported to have worked at a local soup kitchen, was shot at least eight times. Despite the efforts of emergency medics who attempted to revive the man for more that 20 minutes, he died at the scene from his wounds.
The security guard, who witnesses said was is in his mid twenties, told Israeli police officers that the man had emerged from the bathroom area towards the rear of the Western Wall Plaza at around 7.40am, shouted "Allahu akbar" and appeared to remove an object from his pockets, which the guard considered suspicious. Believing the man to be a Palestinian attempting a terror attack, he opened fire.
The Western Wall was closed to the public for several hours on Friday morning to allow forensic teams to examine the scene.
"We are currently investigating what led the Israeli man to shout Allahu akbar and why the security guard opened fire," said Micky Rosenfeld, spokesperson for the Israeli police. "Nothing like this has happened at the Western Wall for years."
Regular worshippers at the holy site told Israeli media the man was homeless and had a history of erratic behaviour.
The Western Wall, formed of large limestone blocks, the remnants of a supporting wall of the Second Temple, is among the most significant religious sites in Judaism.
Perched directly above it on the Temple Mount is the Al Aqsa mosque, where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. This small, fiercely contested section of Jerusalem's Old City marks the symbolic heart of the Middle East conflict.
Tensions at the holy site, that draw thousands of Jewish and Muslim to pray within metres of each other every week, have spiked in regular intervals since Israeli captured the Western Wall from Jordan in the 1967 War.