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Assailants attack off-duty cops in East Jerusalem, gun briefly stolen

Police open fire in Issawiya to scare away attackers, who remain at large, though firearm later found; one officer lightly injured

Officers inspect a car damaged by stones in East Jerusalem on June 8, 2022. (Israel Police)
Officers inspect a car damaged by stones in East Jerusalem on June 8, 2022. (Israel Police)

Police were deployed across the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya late Wednesday and early Thursday after two off-duty officers were attacked there and one had a gun briefly stolen.

Officers opened fire in the crowded residential neighborhood to fend off the assault, during which one police officer suffered light injuries. The suspects remained on the loose as of 2 a.m. Thursday, though the stolen firearm was recovered.

The two cops were in an unmarked car with another passenger near the entrance of Issawiya at approximately 11:15 p.m. when they were attacked with “severe violence,” police said.

Assailants threw stones at the car and shot pepper spray at the cops and the other passenger while chasing them into the adjacent French Hill neighborhood.

“The police who feared for their lives fired into the air in an attempt to clear away the attackers, who then fled the scene,” a police statement said.

The officer who required treatment was injured by both pepper spray and rocks thrown at him, according to police.

The car they were driving in suffered heavy damage. Video from the scene showed all the windows of the car smashed and a large cinderblock resting on the windshield.

A large number of police were deployed following the incident to locate the attackers and recover the gun, which they eventually found. Among those at the scene was Jerusalem police chief Doron Turgeman.

The incident occurred hours after a Palestinian man drove off with a soldier’s rifle after a traffic stop in the southern West Bank earlier in the day.

It was not immediately clear if the suspect grabbed the weapon, as alleged by the army, or if it got stuck in the car door, as security footage appeared to show.

“During the questioning, the driver was asked to identify himself. The driver of the vehicle grabbed the M16 weapon of one of the officers and began driving while dragging the officer until the weapon detached from his body,” police said in a statement.

Two security camera videos of the incident appeared to show one of the officers removing the rifle with a shoulder strap from his body, and thrusting the weapon into the window of the car, before the driver took off.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, the man turned himself in to the Palestinian Authority security forces, with the weapon, which will be returned to Israel.

Tensions have risen sharply between Israel and the Palestinians in recent months against the backdrop of repeated terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank that left 19 people dead.

In Jerusalem, fears of violence rose last month surrounding a nationalist march to mark the anniversary of Israel capturing East Jerusalem in 1967. Tensions in the city have since calmed somewhat.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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