Two Israeli policemen shot dead in Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque
Three Arab-Israeli gunmen shot dead two Israeli policemen near one of Jerusalem’s most holy sites on Friday and were then killed by security forces, police said, in one of the most serious attacks in the area for years.
Israeli authorities shut the area to Muslims gathering for Friday prayers citing security concerns, prompting anger among Palestinian religious leaders. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Hussein, urged Palestinians to defy the closure and he was later reported to have been detained.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but also said closing down the area could have repercussions.
The three gunmen arrived at the sacred site – known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount – on the edge of Jerusalem’s Old City and walked towards one of the nearby ancient stone gates, police spokeswoman Luba Simri said.
“When they saw the policemen they shot towards them and then escaped towards one of the mosques in the Temple Mount compound,” Simri said. “A chase ensued and the three terrorists were killed by police.”
Ten seconds of security camera footage released by police appeared to show two of the attackers running toward two policemen stationed in a stone passageway and shooting one of them in the back.
Mobile phone video footage aired by Israeli media showed several police chasing a man and shooting him at the site, a popular place for foreign tourists to visit.
Simri said three firearms were found on the gunmen’s bodies. The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, said they were all Arab citizens of Israel who were unknown to the authorities.
The two policemen killed were Israeli Arab citizens from the country’s Druze community. The Israeli ambulance service said a third policeman had been lightly wounded in the incident.
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