JERUSALEM — An American Christian who passed himself off as an ex-U.S. Navy SEAL faces charges in Israel of trying to blow up Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities said Tuesday.
Israeli police and the Justice Ministry identified the man as Adam Everett Livix, 30. Police said he faces drug charges back in the U.S. and that he once turned down an offer from a Palestinian to assassinate U.S. President Barack Obama during the leader's visit to the Holy Land in 2013.
The Justice Ministry said the man they identified as Livix underwent a psychiatric evaluation Tuesday after his indictment Monday on charges of illegal weapon possession and overstaying his visa by more than a year. Operating in cooperation with Israel's Shin Bet security service, police went to arrest Livix last month at his 7th-floor apartment, the ministry said, but he initially tried to escape by leaping down to a patio on the floor below.
Livix first arrived in Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank in early 2013. An unnamed Palestinian later asked Livix, who said he was a former Navy SEAL, to assassinate Obama with a sniper rifle during the president's March 2013 visit to the region, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Livix declined, but the FBI ended up involved in the case investigating his actions, Rosenfeld said.
Later that year, Livix entered Israel, the Justice Ministry said, and told Israeli friends he had strong anti-Arab sentiments. The ministry said Livix later cooperated with his roommate, a serving soldier in the Israeli military, to obtain 1.4 kilograms (3 pounds) of explosive material to blow up the unidentified Jerusalem holy sites. The ministry said police discovered the plot in October.
Livix's indictment comes at a time of rising tensions in Jerusalem, mostly over a disputed holy site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and Jews as the Temple Mount. It is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest in Judaism.
Prominent members of Israel's government have become more vocal in recent months about demands that Jews be allowed to pray at the Muslim-run site. Many Palestinians fear this is a pretext for a gradual Jewish takeover, even though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he does not intend to change the current arrangements there. Recent Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem and elsewhere have been linked to those fears.
This isn't the first time a foreigner has threatened a holy site in Jerusalem. In 1969, an Australian Christian started a fire at the complex's Al-Aqsa Mosque in hopes that it would hasten the second coming of Jesus Christ. The man, Denis Michael Rohan, was subsequently committed to a mental institution.
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Cairo and Tammy Webber in Chicago contributed to this report.