Three Palestinian citizens of Israel and two police officers — also Palestinian citizens of Israel — were killed during an armed confrontation in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem early on Friday morning.
According to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, three Palestinians carried out a shooting attack at the Lions’ Gate entrance to the Old City at around 7:00 a.m. on Friday, critically injuring two Israeli police officers, who were taken to hospitals for treatment, and lightly injuring another.
Israeli forces then heavily opened fire towards the Palestinians as they headed inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, injuring the three, who were left on the ground bleeding while medics were reportedly prevented from approaching them, witnesses told Ma’an.
Witnesses told Ma’an that the Palestinians entered Lions’ Gate on a motorcycle and shot at the police officers at point-blank range, before heading inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound through the Gate of Remission — known in Arabic as Bab al-Huttah — where Israeli forces shot them at close range.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri later identified the shooters as Muhammad Ahmad Muhammad Jabarin, 29; Muhammad Hamid Abd al-Latif Jabarin, 19; and Muhammad Ahmad Mufdal Jabarin, 19 — all Palestinian citizens of Israel from the Palestinian-majority town of Umm al-Fahm. Al-Samri added that none of the three men had previously had a “security” record.
Rosenfeld reported early on Friday afternoon that the two critically injured officers had succumbed to their wounds while in the hospital, identifying them as Hail Stawi, 30, and Kamil Shakib Shinan, 22 — two Druze citizens of Israel from the villages of Maghar and Horfish respectively.
Unlike Muslim and Christian Palestinian citizens of Israel, Druze and Circassians with Israeli citizenship are subject to mandatory military service in the Israeli forces, one of a number of distinctions made by the Israeli government between indigenous residents of Israel that have been denounced as “divide and conquer” tactics.
A video published by several Israeli news outlets seemingly showed one of the Palestinians lying on the ground in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, then jumping to his feet as Israeli officers approached him, only to then be shot at close range and fall to the ground.
Al-Samri said that the Palestinians were carrying two Carlo submachine guns, a handgun, and a knife.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to condemn the attack, official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said on social media that he was “shocked and horrified” by the “despicable attack.”
Meanwhile, Fatah al-Intifada — a Palestinian faction that split from the Fatah party in the 1980s — hailed the “heroic” attack as proof that Palestinians could resist the Israeli occupation.
“The attack in Jerusalem is a natural reaction to Israeli terror and the desecration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and is proof of the continuing resistance to the occupation and that the Palestinian people are united and supportive of the resistance,” Haaretz meanwhile quoted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri as saying in a statement.
Due to recent Palestinian Authority (PA) restrictions access to Hamas-affiliated websites in the occupied West Bank, Ma’an was not able to independently confirm Abu Zuhri’s statement.
Rosenfeld added that Israeli police had closed off the area of the Old City, including blocking access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, as witnesses said that Israeli forces were preventing people from entering or leaving the compound.
Abbas told Netanyahu that he severely denounced all violent acts, regardless of who conducted them, especially in places of worship.
Abbas also warned Netanyahu that tensions could rise should Israel continue closing off Al-Aqsa, as the Israeli prime minister assured him that there were no plans to change the status quo at the holy site — revered by both Muslims and Jews, who believe the mosque sits where the First and Second Temple once stood.
The grand mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, told Ma’an that Israeli forces had prevented him from entering Al-Aqsa from multiple entrances on Friday.
Hussein told Ma’an that it was the first time that Israel had prevented Muslims from performing Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa since 1967.
“We insist on reaching Al-Aqsa mosque and performing prayers there,” Hussein told Ma’an. “The occupation preventing us from praying marks an assault against our right to worship in this pure Islamic mosque.”
According to Israeli news outlet The Jerusalem Post, Israeli police detained Al-Aqsa security guards who were present in the compound during the attack, and confiscated their cell phones, the Islamic Waqf, the religious body in charge of the Al-Aqsa compound, said.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the last time the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound was closed off to Muslims was in 2014, when far-right Jewish activist Yehuda Glick — now a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset — was shot in the area.
Friday’s deadly incident took place as Israeli forces killed an 18-year-old Palestinian early on Friday during a detention raid in the al-Duheisha refugee camp in the West Bank district of Bethlehem, raising the toll of Palestinians killed by Israelis in 2017 to 43. Ten Israelis have been killed by Palestinians during the same time period.
According to Ma’an documentation, at least seven Palestinian citizens of Israel — including the five killed on Friday — have died as part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since January. During the same time frame, 20 people have been killed in occupied East Jerusalem — 11 Palestinians, seven members of Israeli forces, one British citizen, and a Jordanian national.