2 Israeli police officers, 3 attackers are killed in Temple Mount shootout
Two Israeli police officers were killed Friday when gunmen with improvised weapons opened fire near the holiest site in Jerusalem, then fled back to the Temple Mount plaza outside the Al Aqsa Mosque and engaged in a rare shootout with police.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld called the incident a “terrorist” attack and said all three attackers were killed. At least one had a knife and tried to stab Israelis, he said.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the attackers were from the Israeli Arab city of Um El Fahm and were Israeli citizens.
The slain officers were identified as Hail Stawi, 30, of Majar and Kaamil Snaan, 22, of Horfis.
Video from the Temple Mount esplanade showed Israeli security forces taking cover amid a hail of gunfire, and police shooting a man at close range. Police ordered the plaza cleared and closed ahead of noon prayers Friday.
The fighting inside the complex was one of the worst incidents of violence on the Temple Mount in years, and the images of the gun battle and fatalities are liable to raise tensions throughout the region. Violent clashes on the Temple Mount have been the spark for prolonged and deadly waves of Israeli-Palestinian violence in the past.
The holy site is known to Jews as the site of their ancient holy temple, while Muslims revere the complex as the place where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the militant Palestinian group Hamas celebrated it.
“The Hamas movement praises the guerrilla attack in Jerusalem. It is a legitimate right for our people and the best evidence of their unity in resisting the brutal occupation,” Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanua said.
Police said the attack occurred shortly after 7 a.m. The three attackers had just left the religious complex and opened fire on a group of Israelis near the Old City’s Lion’s Gate, using improvised machine guns, authorities said.
After the attackers retreated to the mosque complex, teams of Israeli police forces entered the esplanade in pursuit and opened fire, killing three. An Israeli police spokesman said the identities of the suspects had been put under gag order, as had information about the victims.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Transportation and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz said the attack was part of a “battle for Jerusalem” and an effort aimed at “undermining our control” of the city by targeting holy sites for attacks.
Special correspondent Rushdi Abu Alouf in Gaza City contributed to this report.
3:15 a.m.: This article was updated with a report of two police officers being killed in the clash.
12:45 a.m.: The article was updated with a statement from Hamas.
This article was originally published at 12:20 a.m
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