14 July 2017

Israeli police killed in attack near Jerusalem holy site

Police remove body of attacker from site of shooting in Jerusalem (14/07/17)Image copyright

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The attackers were shot dead after being pursued into the sacred compound

Two Israeli policemen have been killed and a third wounded in a shooting attack near a sacred site in Jerusalem.

They were shot by three Israeli Arabs close to the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Police chased the attackers into the site and shot them dead.

There has been a wave of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings of Israelis predominantly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since late 2015.

Two of the previous attackers were Jordanians.

Police say the three men who carried out Friday’s attack were aged between 19 and 29 and came from the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm. Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said that they were not previously known to the security services.

Police say the gunmen opened fire as they made their way from the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif towards Lions’ Gate, an opening in the Old City walls about 100ft (30 metres) away.

The attackers were then pursued back to the compound, where they were killed.

Mobile phone footage showed at least one of the attackers in a confrontation with members of the security forces in the holy site before being shot.

In the wake of the incident, police closed the complex, which contains the al-Aqsa Mosque, ahead of Muslim Friday prayers for the first time in years.

‘Red lines’

The site is administered by an Islamic authority (Waqf), though Israel is in charge of security there. Police are investigating how the attackers managed to smuggle in a handgun, sub-machine gun and knife.

The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam and is one of the most politically sensitive sacred places in the world.

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The attack happened despite heightened security around the Old City in Jerusalem

It is located in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war. Israel considers the entire city its sovereign capital, while Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of sought-after future state.

Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the attack was “a serious and severe event in which red lines were crossed”, adding that security arrangements in and around the site would be reviewed.

No group has said it was responsible, though the militant Palestinian Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, praised the attack as a “natural response to the Zionist ongoing crimes”.

Growing toll

The shooting comes weeks after an Israeli policewoman was killed in a knife and gun attack outside the Old City by three Palestinians from the occupied West Bank.

Forty-four Israelis and five foreign nationals have been killed in nearly two years of such attacks.

At least 255 Palestinians – most of them attackers, Israel says – have also been killed in that period, news agencies report. Others have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.

Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.

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