The two Israeli Druze police officers killed in a shooting attack at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem were laid to rest in separate funerals in their respective northern villages on Friday evening.
Haiel Sitawe, 30 was buried in the town of Maghar, a mostly Druze and Arab city in northern Israel, Friday afternoon. Sergeant Master Kamil Shnaan, 22, was laid to rest in the Druze village of Hurfeish, also in northern Israel.
Sitawe joined the Border Police as part of his mandatory national service. He joined the Israel Police in 2012 and had served in the unit responsible for securing the Temple Mount ever since. He leaves behind a wife, Irin, a three-week-old son, his parents and three brothers.
Shnaan joined the police directly after high school. He decided to stay on the police force seven months ago, signing on as a career officer. He was the youngest son of a former Labor Party Knesset member, Shachiv Shnaan. His engagement party to his girlfriend was to be held next week.
Shnaan leaves behind his parents, one brother and three sisters.
Both Shnaan and Sitawe were posthumously promoted to the rank of master sergeant.
Speaking at Sitawe’s funeral, Police Chief Roni Alsheich hailed the officer as “beloved” among his peers.
“Today you went out as head of a patrol, you weren’t even supposed to be this patrol where you found your death but a friend asked for your help and you immediately responded. This is who you were — a true friend…” he said.
“Your friends cannot process the fact that you are no longer alive…. Members of the family, they don’t have the words to describe the pain. Their pain is our pain, their grief is our grief… We embrace you and promise you that you will never walk alone,” he said to the families.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also spoke at the funeral, saying of Sitawe that in his courageous actions, he saved many lives.
At Shnaan’s funeral later in the afternoon, his father told media he raised his son to “love the country, love the life, love the people.”
— כאן ועכשיו (@kann_news) July 14, 2017
He said his son’s death marked a “moment where we thank God for everything he has given us, 22 years.” After a brief pause marked by grief, he said his son was no longer with us and “pray that he is the last victim [of terror] and that people understand that enough is enough.”
Thousands attended the procession.
At son's funeral frmr Knesset member Shachiv Shnaan says he "raised him to love the country, love life &love people" pic.twitter.com/C3vA3sxXqE
— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) July 14, 2017
Alsheich, who also spoke at Shnaan’s funeral, said he too was “loved by everyone,” adding that the two “died defending Jerusalem.”
The police chief said “great grief has descended…on the State of Israel.”
The attack in which Sitawe and Shnaan were killed began just after 7:00 a.m. Friday morning when three Israeli-Arab terrorists opened fire at the paid of officers in an alleyway outside the Temple Mount complex.
The two were critically injured in the attack, later succumbing to their wounds.
The terrorists, all from the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, fled back to the Temple Mount compound and were shot dead by other police officers on the scene, a police spokesperson said.
CCTV footage released by police Friday evening showed the first moments of the attack, when the terrorists ran up and shot one of the officer in the back.
Speaking to the press soon after the attack, Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said: “This was a tough morning for the police. We have two people killed, officers, who paid the dearest price in this battle.”
Following news of their deaths, Israeli politicians and former defense officials offered support for the Druze community of Israel.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement the “Jewish people have an eternal bond with our brothers, the Druze,” and said he mourned the deaths of Shnaan and Sitawe.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon wrote on Twitter that his “heart is with the families of the officers, our heroic Druze brothers who were murdered in this despicable attack.”
Former general Noam Tibon wrote in a tweet that he “salutes Druze soldiers,” having seen their “great contribution to the defense of Israel during my long years in the IDF.
“I embrace the Shnaan and Sitawe families on the loss of their sons,” he added.
The police commissioner described the attack as “extraordinary and extreme.”
While shootings and stabbings have been common in the Old City of Jerusalem in the past two years, attacks on or near the Temple Mount itself are exceedingly rare.
“A shooting on the Temple Mount is a an event that is grave, sensitive and full of meaning on the level of both [domestic] policy and internationally,” Alsheich said.
According to police, the attackers came from the Temple Mount. They walked toward the Lions Gate exit, then opened fire at the officers.
After the shooting, the terrorists fled toward the Temple Mount and other officers gave chase. The police then opened fire, shooting the terrorists dead inside the complex.
In a video from the scene, one of the suspected terrorists can be seen lying on the ground on the Temple Mount, surrounded by police who have their weapons drawn.
The man suddenly springs up and lunges at one of the police officers with a knife, but is shot before he can stab anybody, a police spokesperson said.
A search of their bodies revealed two Carlo-style submachine guns and a pistol that were used to carry out the attack, police said.
The knife was also recovered at the scene.
The lightly injured officer was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment.
He had been hit by shrapnel and sustained wounds to the neck, arms and hands. A hospital spokesperson said he would likely be released before sundown on Friday, the start of the Jewish Shabbat.
Following the attack, Jerusalem Police chief Yoram Halevi canceled prayers for the day on the Temple Mount, ordering the complex cleared and the entrances to the holy site closed. Police also placed checkpoints at the entrances to the Old City.
It was not immediately known how the terrorists brought the weapons into the holy site. Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount complex go through a less rigorous security check than non-Muslim visitors who enter through the Mughrabi Bridge.
No terror groups took immediate responsibility for the attack, though Hamas did praise it, saying it was a “natural response to Israeli terrorism.”
Last month, a border police officer, 23-year-old Hadas Malka, was stabbed to death in an attack near the Damascus Gate, a frequent site of terror attacks.
The past two years have seen an ongoing wave of Palestinian violence in the West Bank and Israel, though it has waned in recent months.
Since September 2015, mainly Palestinian assailants have killed 43 Israelis, two visiting Americans, a Palestinian man and a British student, mainly in stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks. In that time, some 280 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, a majority of them attackers, according to authorities.
The Israeli government has blamed the terrorism and violence on incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders compounded by social media accounts that glorify violence and encourage attacks.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report