(JTA) – Two Israeli police officers were killed and another one was injured by Arab Israelis of Palestinian origin who opened fire on security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City. At least three armed terrorists were killed in a gunfight with security forces on Friday, July 14, at the Lions’ Gate, which is situated directly northeast of the Temple Mount compound. The officers killed were Kamil Shanan, 22, and Hail Satawi, 30, Army Radio reported. The officers were Druze, according to a statement condemning the attack by Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister. The third officer hurt in the attack is in stable condition.
The attack was better organized than the dozens of terrorist attacks that Israel’s security services record each month in Jerusalem. Featuring semi-automatic weapons and multiple assailants, it constituted a substantial escalation compared to most of the attacks, which feature the use of knives and homemade firebombs.
The attack occurred at around 7 a.m., when the Temple Mount compound was largely empty. The gunmen fired on the police officers before fleeing into an area housing several mosques before they were shot dead by security forces in pursuit. They were carrying a handgun and two Carlo assault rifles – makeshift weapons produced in metal workshops in the West Bank and Gaza.
Zeev Elkin, the Cabinet minister responsible for issues connected with Jerusalem, told the radio station the attack was possible because of Israel’s desire to allow freedom of worship to Muslims and others at the site.
In the aftermath of the attack, Israeli police detained for questioning the grand mufti of Jerusalem. According to the news site NRG, the mufti was called in to answer questions over his call to worshippers to ignore a temporary ban on prayer and public gathering at the Temple Mount compound and the Haram al Sharif mosque. The mufti called the closure “an escalation and aggression against al-Aqsa,” the Arab-language name of the compound.
The American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, wrote on Twitter about the attack: “Shocked and horrified by the despicable attack.” He added: “Terrorism must be condemned by all and defeated. We pray for the victims.”
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the attack in a telephone conversation he initiated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“For decades, there has been unceasing incitement against Israel, rife with false allegations about policies and actions in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, from Palestinian and Israeli Arab religious and political leaders,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, and Carole Nuriel, the director of its Israel office, wrote in a joint statement. They said Abbas and other “Arab political and religious leaders must now take concrete action to curb anti-Israel incitement.”