Prayers cancelled at Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif complex in Jerusalem as attack threatens to raise Israeli-Palestinian tension Two Israeli police officers have been shot dead and three gunmen killed during an early-morning shootout in one of Jerusalem’s most holy and sensitive sites.
The attack – involving three Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin – took place just after 7am in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif complex in Jerusalem. It began near the Lions’ Gate entrance to the compound, which is revered as a holy site by both Muslims and Jews.
A few hours after the incident, the chief of the Israeli police, Roni Alsheich, confirmed the death of the two male officers from wounds sustained in the attack.
The incident was among the most serious in Jerusalem in recent years and threatened to raise Israeli-Palestinian tensions. The two dead police officers were named as Hael Sathawi, 30, and Kamil Shnan, 22.
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According to police, the three men – residents of the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm who were armed with home-made Carlo machine guns and a pistol – opened fire on police near the gate before fleeing back into the heart of the compound which houses the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service later named the three attackers as Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed Jabareen, 29, Mohammed Hamed Abd Al-Latif Jabareen, 19, and Mohammed Ahmed Mafdal Jabareen, also 19, noting that none had previous security convictions.
Police security camera footage, released late on Friday, showed the gunmen approaching two policemen at the gate from within the compound – raising questions about how their weapons were smuggled onto the site.
Two men with guns can be seen emerging through the low arched entrance and almost immediately shooting one of the policemen from behind as he is talking to his seated colleague.
As other Israeli police pursued the men, a heavy exchange of gunfire took place, startling early-morning worshippers in the central plaza, some of whom recorded the shootout on camera phones.
In the immediate aftermath the compound was cleared of visitors and closed, with police announcing that Muslim Friday prayers, usually attended by thousands, would be cancelled for the first time in 17 years.
Israel said the site would remain closed until Sunday at the earliest while it continued with security assessments despite calls for it to be reopened.