The newly elected Labor party leader Avi Gabbay on Friday urged Israeli security forces to hit back at terror groups with a “heavy hand” after three Arab Israeli terrorists shot and killed two Israeli police officers and wounded a third at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“Once again we are witness to a despicable terror attack that was carried out by heinous murderers,” said Gabbay in a statement. “I trust Israel’s security forces that they will wield a heavy hand against those who sent the murderers and the collaborators that helped them. And I send my best wishes for recovery to the wounded.”
His predecessor and current opposition leader Isaac Herzog condemned the “very serious and painful terror attack in the most sensitive of areas.”
“We will overcome without overexcitement, with coolheadedness and with responsibility,” Herzog added.
Labor MK Amir Peretz, a former defense minister who was defeated by Gabbay in the Labor race this week, said he backed “the security forces in their determined action against the attackers,” referring to the swift killing of the terrorists by Israeli security forces as the attack adjacent to the holy site unfolded Friday morning, “because there are no compromises in the war against terror.”
Two officers were killed and a third was lightly wounded in the shooting attack at the Lions Gate entrance to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem’s Old City. According to police, the attackers came from the Temple Mount shortly after 7:00 a.m. They walked toward the Lions Gate exit, then opened fire on 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.
Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, called the attack a “serious and dangerous escalation.”
“We have been through difficult times in the city and the victory over terrorism is to continue coming to Jerusalem,” she said in a statement, sending good wishes to the hurt and saying she backed the security forces.
Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fended off calls to change the longstanding status quo at the holy site in response to the terror attack — that allows for Muslim prayer there but forbids Jewish prayer and religious rituals — with a blunt statement from his office Friday saying, “The status quo will be protected.”
According to the statement, Netanyahu convened a briefing with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Eisenkot, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman, Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai and others.
Erdan called the attack “an extremely serious event which crossed all red lines. The investigation is ongoing. We will need to reevaluate all of the security arrangements on the Temple Mount and its environs. I call on all public leaders to act to calm the situation and ensure quiet in Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin said the “cynical use of the Temple Mount as a kind of zone of immunity for incitement and terror has to stop. We’re not eager to [send security forces to] operate on the Temple Mount, but when we must, we will. The very willingness of the terrorists to use the Temple Mount flows from the incitement” heard at the site, which he noted as already led to rioting there in the past.
On the right, some politicians called for changes to the status quo at the holy site.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home) linked the attack to this week’s UNESCO Heritage Committee decision designating Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs a Muslim holy site endangered by Israel.
Saying both were part of a Palestinian campaign “to undermine our ties” to holy sites in Hebron and Jerusalem, he says the effort “began with the UNESCO decision that the Tomb of the Patriarchs is a Palestinian heritage site and continues today with this attempt by three Palestinian terrorists on the Temple Mount.”
He adds: “Faced with this effort, Israel must bolster its rule and control over the [holy sites], and to ensure that all Jews can pray there at any time in safety.”
He called for the closure of the mount to continue “until quiet and security are returned to the mount.”
Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev backed the call, saying the mount should be “closed to Muslim [worshipers] for a long time.”
In a joint statement, Jewish Home MKs Shuli Muallem-Refaeli and Yehudah Glick said, “the terror that’s being carried out with the backing of the Palestinian Authority and the Islamic Movement in a bid to deny the Jewish link to the Temple Mount cannot pass without a response. The extremist Muslims who desecrate the sanctity of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest place, with their blood have no right to be there. Therefore, Jerusalem Police Chief Yoram Halevi’s decision to close the mount and not to allow the Muslims to carry out their Friday prayers there was a correct one.”