Netanyahu visits families of Druze cops slain at Temple Mount
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Netanyahu visits families of Druze cops slain at Temple Mount

PM pays respects to relatives of Haiel Sitawe, 30, and Kamil Shnaan, 22, amid ongoing tension over security measures in wake of attack

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Shnaan family, whose son Kamil was killed in a July 14 attack on the Temple Mount, in the northern Druze town of Hurfeish, July 27, 2017. (GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Shnaan family, whose son Kamil was killed in a July 14 attack on the Temple Mount, in the northern Druze town of Hurfeish, July 27, 2017. (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, visited Tuesday night the families of two Israeli police officers killed on July 14 by three Arab Israeli gunmen at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Haiel Sitawe, 30, and Kamil Shnaan, 22, of Israel’s Druze community, were killed when on duty just outside the compound by three Arab Israeli assailants, who used guns they had smuggled onto the Temple Mount.

In the northern Druze town of Hurfeish, Shnaan’s father, former Labor Party Knesset member Shachiv Shanan, thanked Netanyahu for the visit and the support that the public has given the family.

“Over the past few days the Jewish people, of which you stand at the head, has shown us its beautiful, loving kindness,” Shnaan said. “The State of Israel is truly the best place in the world for the Druze community.”

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)
Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Netanyahu told Shnaan that he was “moved” by his words. “We have come here to show our love for you,” he said.

He also visited the Sitawe family in the nearby town of Maghar.

Sitawe joined the Israel Police in 2012 and had served in the unit responsible for securing the Temple Mount ever since. He left behind a wife, Irin, a three-week-old son, his parents and three brothers. Shnaan’s engagement party to his girlfriend was to be held this week. Shnaan was survived by his parents, one brother and three sisters.

Last week, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also visited the two families.

“Met today with families of Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan who were murdered last week defending the Temple Mount,” Friedman wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “Heartbreaking. Praying for these two beautiful families.”

The attack, and Israel’s decision in its wake to install metal detectors at the Mount, sparked protests and violent clashes, and led to a diplomatic flareup with Jordan.

Muslim worshipers have boycotted the Temple Mount since the attack, demanding that Israel roll back all of the secureity measures put into place after the attack. They say the move breaks the delicate status quo agreement between Israel and Jordan.

Despite the removal overnight Monday of the metal detectors and security cameras from entrances to the Temple Mount, worshipers continued their protest Tuesday, saying they would not return to the site until security measures returned to how they were before the attack.

Last Thursday, police released video footage from the terror attack showing how the assailants were assisted in smuggling the guns into the al-Aqsa Mosque there on the morning of the shooting.

Muslim worshipers participate in midday prayers in a parking lot near the Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, refusing to enter the Temple Mount enclosure to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque inside, July 25, 2017. (Dov Lieber /Times of Israel)
Muslim worshipers participate in midday prayers in a parking lot near the Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, refusing to enter the Temple Mount enclosure to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque inside, July 25, 2017. (Dov Lieber /Times of Israel)

Muslim worshipers have clashed with police for several days outside the Old City, in riots that have left five killed and dozens injured. Three Israelis were killed by a Palestinian terrorist in a stabbing attack at their Shabbat table at the Halamish settlement in the West Bank in which the killer cited the Temple Mount security measures as a motive.

Under the status quo governing the site, Israel controls access to the compound, while the Waqf Islamic trust set up by Jordan administers activities inside the compound. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit but are prohibited from prayer.

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