Police chief confirms two officers killed in Temple Mount shooting
Shin Bet identifies terrorists, shot dead during attack, as Arab Israelis from the city of Umm al-Fahm; all three share the same name: Muhammad Jabarin
Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.
Two of the victims of a shooting attack at the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem’s Old City died of their wounds on Friday morning, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich confirmed later in the morning.
The victims of the attack were also identified as police officers, a fact that had previously been under a gag order until their families could be notified.
“This is a difficult day for the Israel Police,” Alsheich told reporters as he oversaw operations at the holy site. “We have two dead officers.”
The police officers were members of Israel’s Druze minority.
The names of the officers were not immediately released. They were named later as Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe.
The Shin Bet security service confirmed that the three terrorists who carried out the attack were Arab Israelis from the city of Umm al-Fahm; these were facts which had also been under a gag order, which was lifted shortly before noon.
Just after 7:00 a.m. on Friday, the three terrorists opened fire on a group of police officers, standing just outside the Temple Mount compound. Two of them were hit and seriously wounded. A third officer was struck by shrapnel and suffered light injuries.
The two seriously wounded officers were treated by medics from the Magen David Adom ambulance service and taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, where they were pronounced dead. The third officer was taken to the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment.
The three terrorists behind the attack were shot dead by other police officers on the scene, a police spokesperson said.
According to the Shin Bet, all three of the shooters were named Muhammad Jabarin. Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin was 29 years old, while Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin were both 19.
The agency said none of the three had a record of involvement in terrorism.
Alsheich described the attack as “extraordinary and extreme.”
While shootings and stabbings have been common in the Old City of Jerusalem in the past two years, attacks on or near the Temple Mount itself are exceedingly rare.
“A shooting on the Temple Mount is an event that is serious, sensitive and significant diplomatically and internationally,” Alsheich said.
According to police, the attackers came from the Temple Mount. They walked toward the Lions Gate exit, then opened fire at the officers.
After the shooting, the terrorists fled back toward the Temple Mount and other officers gave chase. Police then opened fire, shooting the terrorists dead inside the complex.
In a video from the scene, one of the suspected terrorists can be seen lying on the ground on the Temple Mount surrounded by police who have their weapons drawn.
The man suddenly springs up and lunges at one of the police officers with a knife, but is shot before he can stab anybody, a police spokesperson said.
A search of their bodies revealed two Carlo-style submachine guns and a pistol that were used to carry out the attack, police said.
The knife was also recovered at the scene.
A photograph shared widely on Israeli social media purported to show the shooters’ ID cards, indicating they were Israeli citizens from the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. This was not confirmed by police.
The lightly injured officer was hit by shrapnel and sustained wounds to the neck, arms and hands. A Shaare Zedek hospital spokesperson said he would likely be released before sundown on Friday, the start of the Jewish Shabbat.
Following the attack, Jerusalem Police chief Yoram Halevi canceled prayers for the day on the Temple Mount, ordering the complex cleared and the entrances to the holy site closed. Police also placed checkpoints at the entrances to the Old City.
It was not immediately known how the terrorists brought the weapons 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.
No terror group took immediate responsibility for the attack, though Hamas did praise it, saying it was a “natural response to Israeli terrorism.”
Last month, a border police officer, 23-year-old Hadas Malka, was stabbed to death in an attack near the Damascus Gate, a frequent site of terror attacks.
The past two years have seen an ongoing wave of Palestinian violence in the West Bank and Israel, though it has waned in recent months.
Since September 2015, mainly Palestinian assailants have killed 43 Israelis, two visiting Americans, a Palestinian man and a British student, mainly in stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks. In that time, some 280 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, a majority of them attackers, according to authorities.
The Israeli government has blamed the terrorism and violence on incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders compounded by social media accounts that glorify violence and encourage attacks.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report