Terrorists killed two Border Police men at the Temple Mount compound on Friday morning after which police imposed a closure on the compound and restrictions on entry to the capital’s Old City.
Around 7 a.m., three young men opened fire next to the Gate of the Tribes (Bab al-Asbat) and wounded three policemen. Border Police officers Haiel Stawi, 30, and Kamil Shnaan, 22, later died from their wounds.
The three terrorists fled into the compound, reportedly seeking refuge in the Islamic structures there, and were immediately shot by police.
One of the assailants, who was thought to be “neutralized,” got up and tried to grab a gun from one of the policeman, and was then shot again.
A Magen David Adom medic, Aharon Adler, who took care of the injured policemen, was lightly wounded during the attack.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) later identified the terrorists as Muhammad Ahmad Mahmoud Jabarin, 29, Muhammad Ahmed Fadel Jabarin, 19, and Muhammad Hamed Abd al-Latif Jabarin, 19, all from Umm el-Fahm in northern Israel. Two Carl Gustav- type submachine guns were found on their bodies, as well as one pistol.
For the first time in decades, following the attack, the police closed all Old City gates and prevented Muslims from entering for the Friday prayers at the Aksa mosque.
Later in the day, Jaffa Gate was opened to the public.
Police also closed to traffic the streets adjacent to the Old City, such as Sultan Suleiman Street and Salah al-Din Street, both near Damascus Gate and central hubs for Arab residents of east Jerusalem.
It was unclear when the closure on the Temple Mount compound would be lifted. It reportedly was expected to be removed on Sunday, mainly due to international pressure.
Muslims held Friday prayers outside the two main gates of the Old City – Damascus Gate and Lions’ Gate. Following the prayers, the mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, reportedly was detained by police along with three officials from the Wakf Islamic trust.
The closure passed relatively peacefully, with some arguments by local residents with the police. Other than the terrorist attack, no violent incidents were reported Friday and Saturday.
Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich said in a press briefing at Lions’ Gate that the measures were taken due to the uniqueness of the attack.
“We are talking here about live fire being shot at policemen inside the Temple Mount after weapons were smuggled inside the compound,” said Alsheich. “This is an unprecedented and unusual incident on the Temple Mount. This is a holy place for Muslims and the attack was carried out by Muslims.”
Alsheich added that it was important for police to search the compound for more weapons that may have been smuggled inside.
“There are some elementary measures that we need to take now and, first of all, a thorough search for firearms,” he said. “We must ensure that there are no more weapons on the Temple Mount. We will take our time and do it in a proper and thorough way.”
The police continued to search for firearms on Saturday.
The next stage, according to Alsheich, is ensuring that this kind of attack does not recur, though he did not specify whether security arrangements at the compound would be changed. Currently, the Jordanian Wakf Islamic Trust is running the compound and Israel Police checkpoints are located outside the gates.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday rejected claims that Israel intends to change the status quo on the compound.
Alsheich called on all parties to help calm the situation in light of the sensitivity of the location of the attack.
“It is clear that a terrorist attack on the Temple Mount has ramifications,” he said. “I hope that leaders from all sides will be responsible and assist in calming the situation, and not use it to incite.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also mentioned the uniqueness of the attack and stressed the importance of the investigation.
“As far as I remember, this is an unprecedented attack of the use of firearms in the Temple Mount compound,” Erdan said at Lions’ Gate.
“This means that the terrorists desecrated the holiness of the site by carrying out a planned shooting attack.
“Due to security constraints, we have closed the Temple Mount for visitors so the police can conduct the necessary checks,” he continued.
“They need to check who brought them [the terrorists] here and what other weapons might be still in this broad and complicated compound called Temple Mount.”
Erdan then reiterated calls to public leaders to avoid fanning the flames.
“We call on all leaders – Jewish, Arab, in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority – we call on all of them to calm the spirits and to call on the public to act with restraint out of concern for the safety and security of the people,” he said.
Erdan said Palestinian incitement was a possible cause of the attack.
“It should be remembered that we’ve been saying for months that there is incitement – not only on social media but also officially [for example when PA President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen called on the public to ‘defend’ the Temple Mount, when he said the feet of Jews are defiling the Temple Mount.
These kind of words have severe implications and we might have seen them this morning.”
Police conducted searches in the terrorists’ homes in Umm el-Fahm, but no further information was released.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.