The Hamas terror group on Saturday called for further attacks on Israelis after the closure of the Temple Mount in the wake of Friday’s deadly assault at the holy site.
In Gaza, Hamas staged a rally Saturday to celebrate the attack, in which three Arab Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers.
The gunmen launched the attack from the compound and then fled back onto it, where they were pursued and killed by Israeli forces. Israel then shut the site as its forces searched for more weapons. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly intends to gradually reopen it on Sunday, but the move has drawn widespread condemnation from the Arab and Muslim World.
Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seeks to destroy Israel, described the closure of the site in a statement Saturday as a “religious war” and Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called on the Palestinian “uprising” to target the Israeli army and West Bank settlers.
The three assailants carried out the attack with two Carlo-style submachine guns, a pistol and a knife, police said. It was not immediately known how they had brought the weaponry into the compound.
Israel’s decision to close the Old City compound after the attack — unprecedented since 1969 — 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.
Reports throughout Friday said the two 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.
Israel criticized Jordan for calling to “immediately reopen” the site after the attack, with one 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,” said the unnamed official.
Jordan, which administers the site through the Waqf, had called on Israel 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 and which Israel refers to as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam.
The Jordanian royal family is officially the custodian of the mosque atop the Temple Mount, and exercises its authority there though Israel is responsible for security.
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, who all came from the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm.