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Several casualties in shooting near Jerusalem holy site

Three people were wounded in a shooting attack near the entrance of the Al Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City

14 July 2017, 8:02am
Emergency personnel at the site of the shooting attack in Jerusalem's Old City
Emergency personnel at the site of the shooting attack in Jerusalem's Old City
Three attackers opened fire near Jerusalem's holiest site on Friday, wounding three Israelis, two of them critically, before they were killed, Israeli police said.

Israeli police said the three gunmen reached one of the gates near the Al Aqsa compound carrying two homemade Carlo submachine guns, a hand gun and knives, opened fire and fled towards Al Aqsa mosque where they were shot dead by Israeli police officers on Friday.

Weapons were found on their bodies, alongside Israeli ID's and one driving license. One of the gunmen resides in Umm el Faham, making them all Israeli citizens.  

No details were immediately available on the identity of the attackers. Israeli authorities are still working to identify the attackers, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. The suspicion that the attackers were Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin was raised by documents found on the bodies, including identity cards and a driving licence, which police were checking to see if they were genuine.

Army Radio specified that the shooting took place near the sacred site known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.

The site includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

 

Jerusalem chief of Police Yoram Halevi has ordered the Temple mount closed, evacuated, and Friday prayers cancelled, in a highly unusual move. All gates to the Old City of Jerusalem had been closed. 

The Israeli ambulance service Magen David Adom said two of the Israelis wounded were receiving life-saving treatment.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in the aftermath of the attack that he would not change prayer rights at the site, despite calls by far-right politicians who sought to exploit the shooting.

The deputy defence minister, Eli Ben Dahan of the far-right Jewish Home party, had earlier called for Israel to “bolster its rule and control over the [holy sites], and to ensure that all Jews can pray there at any time in safety”. A second Jewish Home MP, Moti Yogev, called for the compound to be “closed to Muslim [worshipers] for a long time.”

Netanyahu rejected the calls. “It was decided to shutter the Temple Mount today for security reasons. Searches will be carried out to ensure that there are no more weapons on the Temple Mount. The status quo on the Temple Mount will be preserved,” he said in a statement.

The site, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, and the seventh-century Dome of the Rock, is also revered by Jews as the site of the historic Temple. Jews are permitted to visit but not pray at the site, a prohibition supported by the mainstream Jewish Halakhic tradition. The site is managed under a long-standing arrangement with the Jordanian-supported Islamic institution known as the waqf.