Hundreds of thousands of Muslims took part in the final Friday prayers of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, as Israel heightened security following a Palestinian stabbing attack.
The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf organization which administers the site, the third holiest site in Islam, said in total 260,000 worshipers gathered for the lunchtime prayers.
The prayers came only hours after a Palestinian teenager stabbed two Israelis inside the Old City before being shot dead by Israeli police.
In a separate incident, another Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces in the West Bank as he sought to breach the security barrier and sneak into Jerusalem, reportedly to pray at Al-Aqsa.
In Jerusalem, a 19-year-old Palestinian stabbed one Israeli near Damascus Gate and another near Jaffa Gate on the other side of the walled Old City, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.
One of the Israelis, a man in his 40s, was in a critical condition with knife wounds to the neck and the other, 16-year-old Yisrael Meir Nachumberg, was stabbed in his back.
“Police units that responded at the scene saw the attacker with a knife. The attacker was shot and killed,” Rosenfeld said.
The Palestinian health ministry later named him as Yusef Wajih from Abwein village in the central West Bank.
A video released by police showed a man running through the streets and stabbing two Orthodox Jews.
Stabbing Attack in the old city of JLM- @Il_police officers neutralized an attacker injuring two. They were taken to the hospital, with severe and mild injuries. Investigation into the identity of the attacker revealed that he is a 19-year-old resident of Judea and Samaria region pic.twitter.com/QegOYUvD0R
— Israel Police (@israelpolice) May 31, 2019
Jerusalem’s Old City has seen a number of stabbing attacks in recent years, but has been relatively calm in the past six months.
On December 13, two Border Police officers were stabbed and lightly wounded in a terror attack in the Old City, before shooting dead their assailant, police and medics said. A male officer was stabbed in the face, near his eye. A female border guard was stabbed in the leg. The attacker, a 26-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank, was shot dead by the officers.
Another terror attack in Jerusalem occurred on February 7, in which a Palestinian man, Arafat Irfaiya, raped and murdered 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher. In March, Irfaiya was charged with committing the crimes in the context of a terrorist act.
After the latest attack on Friday, gates to the Old City were briefly sealed before being reopened as thousands thronged towards the mosque.
Inside the mostly uncovered mosque compound, water was sprayed on worshipers to keep them cool in the baking Jerusalem sun, with temperatures approaching 40°C (104°F).
Despite a heavy police presence, there were no reports of further incidents.
Rosenfeld said increased security presence would “continue throughout the afternoon and evening.”
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and sits atop the Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism and revered as the home of the ancient Jewish Temples. It is often a major flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel views the whole of Jerusalem as its capital while the Palestinians see the eastern part as the capital of their future state.