UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday condemned the terror attack near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in which two Israeli police officers were killed, warning the deadly incident could ignite further violence.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres was urging everyone to “act responsibly to avoid escalation.”
He said the secretary-general welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s swift condemnation of the attack and the assurances by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “that the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem will be respected.”
Dujarric said Guterres stressed that “the sanctity of religious sites should be respected as places for reflection, not violence.”
The EU on Friday denounced the attack as “not only a crime against people on duty, but also a profanation of [the] holy site,” saying in a statement “there can be no justification for such a crime or any act of terror.”
“The EU calls on all leaders to condemn violence and all acts of terrorism when they occur, and to work towards restoring the dignity and safety of this holy site,” agency’s spokesperson said.
Britain’s Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt also strongly condemned the “horrific” terror attack. “I am saddened and appalled by this despicable act and offer my condolences to the victims and their families,” a statement said. “The UK continues to stand with Israel against terrorism.”
The US envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, condemned the attack, and in a series of tweets called to eradicate terrorism.
“My family & I send thoughts & prayers to families of victims of today’s terror attack in Jerusalem. We must defeat all forms of terror!” he posted on Twitter.
He characterized the phone call between Abbas and Netanyahu after the attack as “important,” and expressed hope the Palestinian leader would help Netanyahu bring the Israeli perpetrators to justice.
On Friday morning, two police officers were killed and a third was lightly wounded in the shooting attack just outside the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem’s Old City. According to police, the attackers came from the Temple Mount shortly after 7:00 in the morning. They walked toward the Lions Gate exit, then opened fire at the Israelis.
After the shooting, the terrorists fled toward the Temple Mount and police gave chase. The officers then opened fire, shooting the terrorists dead inside the complex.
Reports throughout Friday said both the police officers were killed just outside the Temple Mount compound. However, Channel 2 news reported late Friday that the second policeman may have been killed by the assailants on the mount itself, after they had fled back.
Two officers, Haiel Sitawe, 30 and Kamil Shnaan, 22, both from Druze villages in northern Israel, were critically injured in the attack, later succumbing to their wounds. A third officer was injured by shrapnel.
The gunmen were named by the Shin Bet security agency as Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin, 29, Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, 19 and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin, 19 — all from the northern Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.
Following the attack, police closed the Temple Mount for Friday prayers after, but Netanyahu stressed that he did not intend to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.
The decision to close the Old City compound after the attack — unprecedented in decades — was partly to check for other weaponry there, and also to investigate whether the assailants had received help from inside the compound, TV reports said.
Later on Friday, Netanyahu said the site would gradually be reopened for prayer starting from Sunday morning.
The prime minister also reportedly ordered Israel’s security services, which are responsible for the security oversight at the site, to introduce more effective security procedures. In the past, there has been talk of installing cameras at the site, and placing metal detectors and/or other security measures to try to prevent weaponry being brought into the compound. Jordan, which is responsible for the religious administration of the site, has hitherto opposed such measures.