Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday evening revoked the entry permits given to Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to visit their relatives in Israel, following a terror attack in Jerusalem in which Border Police officer Hadas Malka was killed.
Israel had eased restrictions on the entrance of Palestinians from the West Bank for Ramadan, including permitting daily family visits during Sundays through Thursdays.
Following the attack, Netanyahu held a phone consultation with Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and decided to cancel the family visits, according to a police statement.
Netanyahu, however, did not revoke the permission given to Palestinian men aged over 40 from the West Bank to enter Jerusalem for Friday prayers, police said.
“During Ramadan there are large numbers of (Palestinian) youths who enter without permits, they take advantage of Ramadan to be in Jerusalem,” Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevy told media at the scene of the attack outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate in which Malka was stabbed to death.
Three Palestinians armed with an automatic weapon and knives carried out near simultaneous attacks at two adjacent locations, in which at least four other people were injured, before they were shot and killed. The first attack was at Zedekiah’s Cave, and the second next to Damascus Gate.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said Staff Sergeant Malka, 23, was responding to the first attack when a Palestinian assaulted her with a knife. Samri said Malka wrestled with the man for several seconds and tried to draw her weapon as he stabbed her multiple times before other officers saw what was happening and opened fire, killing him. She later died of her wounds in hospital.
In the first attack, two Palestinians fired at officers with an automatic weapon and attacked them with knives before officers returned fire, killing them. Some reports said the gun used by the attackers jammed, preventing further casualties.
The Shin Bet internal security agency identified the three perpetrators as Bra’a Saleh Atta and Usama Atta, both born in 1998, and Adel Ankush, born the following year.
Hamas dismissed a claim of responsibility for the attack by Islamic State, and said all three assailants were members of Palestinian terrorist organizations. The attack was carried out by “two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a third from Hamas,” Hamas said early Saturday.
All three were from Deir Abu-Mashal, a village near Ramallah, and had been arrested for or involved in “popular terror activity,” a Shin Bet statement said. Security forces late Friday night surrounded Deir Abu-Mashal, and were preparing to raid the assailants’ homes to question their family members regarding the attack.
A fourth Palestinian, a Hebron resident who had been misidentified by Palestinian security as a perpetrator, was in fact a passerby who was wounded by gunshots and taken to hospital, Israeli police said.
Of the four wounded, two were moderately hurt, and two lightly. Two of those wounded were Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
Israel last month announced that it was relaxing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians to and from the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, including easier access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, issuing more travel permits and allowing some to travel abroad. The measures were similar to those of previous years.
Over the past 18 months the Old City, and the Damascus Gate in particular, have seen several attacks by Palestinians, and in one case a Jordanian national.
Since September 2015, some 43 Israelis, two visiting Americans, an Eritrean national, a Palestinian man and a British student have been killed in stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks by Palestinian assailants. In that time, more than 270 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, a majority of them attackers, according to authorities.
The Israeli government has blamed the terrorism and violence in part on incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders compounded on social media sites that glorify violence and encourage attacks.