The Arab League condemned Israel for its closure of the Temple Mount following a terror attack at the holy site.
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement on Friday that Israel’s “banning Palestinians from praying” will only “inflame extremism and escalate tension” in the region.
He stressed “the high sensitivity of issues related to religious places,” and chastised Israel for handling the situation with “carelessness.”
The statement made no mention of the cause of the temporary closure — a terror attack earlier in the day that claimed the lives of two Israeli police officers.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an umbrella group of 57 nations, also lambasted the closure, calling it “a serious crime and a dangerous precedent.”
Following Friday’s attack, in which three Israeli-Arabs killed two Israeli Druze police officers near Lions Gate outside the Temple Mount complex, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the rare step of sealing the site amid security sweeps.
Israel closed the compound for the first time since 1969, saying it was carrying out security checks, including for further weaponry.
Netanyahu has reportedly instructed that the site be gradually reopened starting Sunday, and rejected allegations that he was seeking to change the status quo.
Jordan, which administers the site through the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, also called on Israel Friday to “reopen Al-Aqsa mosque and the Haram al-Sharif (compound) immediately,” in reference to the complex which houses the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock sanctuary.
“The Jordanian government opposes any harm against Muslims in carrying out their religious worship in their holy places, freely and with no obstacles,” a government statement said. It warned against any attempt “to alter the legal and historical status quo in Jerusalem.”
Israel rejected the demand and criticized Amman, with one unnamed official telling Israeli TV that “instead of condemning the attack, Jordan chose to attack Israel, which is protecting worshipers and maintaining freedom of worship in the place.
“Israel will not tolerate harm to the holy places and is maintaining the status quo there. It should be expected that all sides involved, including Jordan, exercise restraint and avoid fanning the flames.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke with Netanyahu following the attack. According to the PA’s official news agency Wafa, Abbas “expressed his strong rejection and condemnation of the incident,” while calling for Israel to reopen the site.
According to a report Friday, among the suspects detained in the attack was at least one Waqf official who police suspect may have aided the terrorists, all from the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm.
The terrorists attacked the officers in an alleyway, coming from the direction of the Temple Mount and fled back there as other officers gave chase. The police 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.
It was not immediately known how the terrorists brought the weapons used in the attack — two Carlo-style submachine guns, a pistol and a knife — 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.
The UN and the EU denounced the attack. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the deadly incident could ignite further violence. The EU in a statement called it a “crime” and “a profanation of [the] holy site.”
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.