Three Israelis wounded, attackers killed in dramatic shootout near Temple Mount

Gunmen with improvised weapons opened fire Friday near two of the holiest sites in Jerusalem, wounding three Israelis in the Old City before fleeing back to the plaza outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque and engaging in a rare shoot-out with police.

Israeli Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld called the incident a "terrorist" attack and said all three attackers were killed. At least one had a knife and tried to stab Israelis, he said.

Video footage from the Temple Mount esplanade showed Israeli security forces taking cover amid a hail of gunfire, and police shooting a man at close range. Police ordered the plaza cleared and closed ahead of noon prayers Friday.

The fighting inside the complex was one of the worst incidents of violence on the Temple Mount in years, and the footage of the gun battle and fatalities was liable to raise tensions throughout the region. Violent clashes on the Temple Mount have been the spark for prolonged and deadly waves of Israeli-Palestinian violence in the past.

The holy site is known to Jews as the site of their ancient holy temple while Muslims revere the complex as the place where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.

Police said the attack occurred shortly after 7 a.m. The three attackers had just left the religious complex and opened fire on a group of Israelis near the Old City’s Lion’s Gate, using improvised machine guns. At least three Israelis were injured in the attack, two of them seriously.

After the attackers retreated to the mosque complex, teams of Israeli police forces entered the esplanade in pursuit and opened fire, killing three. An Israeli police spokesman said the identities of the suspects had been put under gag order, as had information about the victims.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Transportation Minister said the attack was part of a "battle for Jerusalem" and an effort to "undermining our control" of the city by targeting holy sites for attacks.

Mitnick is a special correspondent.

Comments are closed.