The US Consulate General on Saturday issued a travel warning for the Old City of Jerusalem, urging US citizens to avoid the area following a terror attack at the Temple Mount in which two police officers were killed.
“Based on continued tensions and the potential for clashes in the Old City, the restriction of US government employees and their family members from entering the Old City is extended from now through Monday morning, July 17 at 9:00 am, without prior approval from the US Consulate General,” it said in a statement.
“We recommend that private US citizens take into consideration these restrictions and the additional guidance contained in the Department of State’s travel warning for Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank when making decisions regarding their travel in the Old City and in Jerusalem,” it added.
Since Friday’s attack, in which three Israeli-Arabs killed two Israeli Druze police officers near Lions Gate just outside the Temple Mount complex, tensions have been steadily increasing, with Muslim leaders calling for Israel to reopen the site.
After the shooting attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government took the rare step of sealing the site amid security sweeps. Israel said the killers emerged from the Temple Mount compound with automatic weapons, in what Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called a “defiling” of the holy site.
Israel closed the compound for the first time since 1969, saying it was carrying out security checks, including for further weaponry.
Netanyahu reportedly instructed the site be gradually reopened starting Sunday, and dismissed allegations that he was seeking to change the long-held status quo at the site.
Despite his assurances, anger continued to build in the Muslim world over the closure to the Temple Mount and the restrictions on entering the Old City, with the widespread condemnations often making little or no mention of the actual attack.