Three armed men have shot dead during a gunfight at the entrance of the flashpoint Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif complex in Jerusalem, during an attack in which two Israelis were injured.
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Some reports in the Israeli media suggests that the attackers were Israeli Arabs, citizens of the city of Umm al-Fahm, despite the fact that it was not immediately confirmed by police.
Immediately after the incident, the area was cleared of visitors and closed, with the police announcing that the Muslim Friday prayers, usually, that was attended by thousands of people, would be cancelled for the first time in 17 years.
According to initial reports by the Israeli police, the three assailants, armed with two homemade Carlo sub-machine guns and a pistol, shot at several police officers near the Lion’s Gate of entrance to the site, before running into the compound.
“When they saw the police officers who fired their weapons against them and then escaped to one of the mosques on the Temple Mount compound,” the police spokesperson Luba Samri said. “A chase ensued and the three terrorists were killed by the police.”
Dramatic images of the incident showed the back of the gun battle as it took place within the confines of the compound. The shaky video shows a series of figures dressed in dark clothes running through the compound and an exchange of gunfire before one of the apparent attackers falls to the ground.
At one stage, the material seems to show that one of the attackers on the ground, jump again, as the police approach before being shot.
The police said that three attackers were killed by security forces. The Israeli ambulance service Magen David Adom said that two of the Israeli wounded were receiving life-saving treatment.
The israeli authorities are trying to identify the attackers, a police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said. The suspicion that they were Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin was raised by the documents found on the bodies, including identity cards and driving licences, the police are checking the authenticity.
The site, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third most sacred place, and the seventh-century Dome of the Rock, is also revered by Jews as the site of the historic Temple. The jews are allowed to visit but not pray at the site, a ban supported by the current Jewish Halakhic tradition. Is managed under a long agreement with the Jordanian-supported Islamic institution known as the Waqf.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said after the attack that he was not going to change the sentence of the rights in the site, despite calls for extreme right-wing politicians who tried to exploit the shooting.
The deputy defence minister, Eli Ben Dahan of the far-right Jewish Home party, had called on Israel to “strengthen its domination and control over [holy sites], and to make sure that all of the Jews can pray at any time in security.” A second Jewish Home MP Moti Yogev,said that the compound must be “closed to the Muslims [the faithful] for a long time.”
Netanyahu rejected the calls. “It was decided to close the Temple Mount today for security reasons. The searches were carried out to ensure that there are no more weapons in the [site]. The status quo on the Temple Mount is preserved,” he said.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, said to news agencies and Palestinian had been prevented from entering the complex. “We insist on getting to the Al-Aqsa mosque and performing prayers there. The occupation prevents us pray marks of an assault on our right to worship in this pure Islamic mosque,” he said.
The incident precedes a report of a move by the Israeli government to allow Israeli Mps, who were not allowed to go to the flash point of the site, to visit the Temple Mount, in the form of a test.
Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, said: “The terrorist attack today is a severe and extreme event that all the red lines have been crossed. The attack is still under investigation and forces us to look into the security arrangements at the Temple Mount and in its vicinity.
“I call on all public figures to do everything in their power to calm the situation and keep the peace.”
A wave of Palestinian street attacks that began in the year 2015 has slowed, but not stopped. From September 2015, the attackers Palestinians have been killed 43 Israeli, two visiting Americans and a British tourist.
At that time, the Israeli forces have killed more than 254 Palestinians, most of them said by Israel to potential attackers.