Three Palestinians were killed after ambushing police officers in the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday morning, fatally injuring two and lightly wounding another.
The three Palestinian assailants were identified as Muhammad Jabarin, 29; Muhammad Hamid Abd al-Latif Jabarin, 19; and Muhammad Ahmad Mufdal Jabarin, 19. All three are residents of the Palestinian town of Umm al-Fahm in Israel.
An image of the three circulated on social media:
The two slain Israeli officers were identified as Hael Sathawi, 30, and Kamil Shanan, 22, the son of a former member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.
Both were reported to belong to the Druze community, an indigenous religious minority designated a national group distinct from the rest of the Palestinian population in Israel as part of the state’s divide-and-rule strategy.
An image that circulated on social media shows Shanan (left) and Sathawi (right):
The attack took place near an entrance to the compound which houses al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites for Muslims.
Security camera footage released by Israel – which is quick to release such footage when it serves its ends, but has withheld security camera recordings from the scenes of suspected extrajudicial executions of Palestinians – is said to show Palestinian gunmen laying ambush on the officers from inside the mosque compound:
The assailants fled back into the compound where there was reportedly an exchange of fire before the Palestinians were killed.
Another video from the scene appears to show one of the Palestinian men lying on the ground as an officer searches his bag. The man rises up from the ground and runs several feet before he is shot by an officer. Several officers fire multiple times at the felled Palestinian, in what appears to be an instance of Israeli armed forces’ policy of “confirming the kill”:
Witnesses told the Ma’an News Agency, a Palestinian outlet, that police prevented medics from approaching the wounded Palestinians, who were left bleeding on the ground.
Al-Aqsa mosque closure
Israeli police closed off the Old City and blocked access to al-Aqsa mosque following the attack.
A spokesperson from the Islamic Waqf which administers the holy site told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided and surrounded the mosque.
Friday prayers were ordered canceled for the first time in decades, with a Waqf official telling media that the last time they were canceled was in 1990, while the grand mufti of Jerusalem said it was the first time Israel had prevented Muslims from holding Friday prayers there since 1967.
Palestinian worshippers held Friday prayers in Jerusalem’s streets as Israeli forces looked on:
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn the attack and reportedly called for an end to the closure at al-Aqsa, warning that it could endanger the highly sensitive status quo at the site.
During the conversation, reportedly the first between the two in many months, Netanyahu claimed that no change will be made to al-Aqsa’s status quo.
Provocations at al-Aqsa
Israeli provocations at the holy site have precipitated major episodes of violence in the past.
In 1996, Netanyahu, during a previous tenure as prime minister, authorized the opening of tunnels near the al-Aqsa mosque compound, sparking confrontations that resulted in approximately 60 Palestinian fatalities, as well as that of more than a dozen Israeli forces.
In September 2000, Ariel Sharon, the architect of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon in which tens of thousands of people were killed, entered the al-Aqsa compound under the escort of hundreds of riot police. Seen as a deliberate provocation, the incident catalyzed the second Palestinian intifada, which claimed the lives of more than 570 Palestinians and 150 Israelis in its first year.
Unchecked assaults and incursions on al-Aqsa by government-backed extremist Israeli groups that seek to destroy the mosque and replace it with a Jewish temple sparked a wave of protest and violence in the autumn of 2015 that soon spread to other areas of historic Palestine, particularly the Hebron area of the West Bank.
Though the number of fatalities has ebbed since the last three months of 2015, the phenomenon of individual or small cells of Palestinians, independent of command of any armed groups, waging attacks against Israeli occupation forces has not abated.
The head of COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, put out an Arabic-language video to address “Palestinians and the Arab world” following the attack:
In the video Major-General Yoav Mordechai states that the Palestinian gunmen who waged the attack from al-Aqsa “desecrated its sanctity in their act.”
But seemingly contradicting claims made by Israel’s police chief that the attackers used weapons stored inside the mosque compound, Mordechai says that the assailants “came in armed.”
Mordechai’s video is an apparent attempt to present Israel as a guarantor of safety and security at the compound, rather than as an occupier whose armed presence has been at the root of decades of violence.
“We hope that the freedom of worship will be restored soon,” Mordechai claims.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, meanwhile stated that the Jerusalem attack “is a serious and severe event in which red lines were crossed,” adding that it would prompt a “review all of the security arrangements on the Mount [the mosque compound] and its surroundings.”
The European Union’s foreign policy spokesperson and Nickolay Mladenov, the top UN political official in Jerusalem, both condemned the slayings of the police as “terror,” a term typically associated with the targeting of civilians, not with attacks targeting personnel enforcing a military occupation.
This is in line with a marked trend of UN and EU officials parroting the views of the Israeli government. Neither the EU nor UN have responded to requests from The Electronic Intifada for their official definition of “terrorism.”
By contrast, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack on police in Jerusalem, but the statement issued by his spokesperson pointedly does not refer to “terrorism.”
Lethal raids on refugee camps
None of these statements made any reference to lethal Israeli raids on Palestinian refugee camps in the occupied West Bank this week.
On Wednesday, an Israeli invasion of Jenin refugee camp left two youths dead. On Friday morning, a third Palestinian youth was killed during an army raid on a refugee camp near Bethlehem in the early morning hours.
Baraa Hamamda, 18, was shot in the upper chest by Israeli forces who had raided Dheisheh refugee camp to detain two residents.
The army claimed Palestinians threw “explosive devices and blocks” at soldiers, who in turn fired towards the protesters.
Haaretz reported that Hamamda was shot by the Duvdevan special ops unit, also known as the mistavrim, which frequently disguise themselves as Palestinian civilians.
Last month, another Palestinian youth died was shot twice in the head at close range by Israeli commandos disguised as civilians during a raid on the West Bank city of Hebron.
A large procession of mourners carried Hamamda’s body through the streets of Dheisheh before he was buried on Friday:
Defense for Children International - Palestine reported that Aws Muhammad Yousif Salameh, 16, killed during the raid on Jenin camp on Wednesday, was “chasing military vehicles on foot” when he was injured by a “dum-dum bullet.” The slain youth’s father told the rights group that the exploding bullet “ripped through his liver, lungs and spleen.”
According to the rights group, “The use of expanding and exploding bullets is a violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
“Israeli military incursions into Palestinian communities often have fatal consequences for children,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, a program director at Defense for Children International - Palestine, stated. “Israeli forces routinely employ intentional lethal force in complete disregard of international law, increasingly placing Palestinian children at risk.”
Israeli forces raid Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank on a nightly basis with a rate of 75 raids every two weeks so far this year, according to United Nations data.
Last year was the deadliest for Palestinian children in the West Bank in a decade, with more than 30 killed by Israeli forces.
Forty-three Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire so far this year, including 10 children. Nine Israelis, all but one of them soldiers or police, as well as a British national, were slain by Palestinians during the same period.
Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.
- Muhammad Jabarin
- Muhammad Hamid Abd al-Latif Jabarin
- Muhammad Ahmad Mufdal Jabarin
- Umm al-Fahm
- Hael Sathawi
- Kamil Shanan
- Al-Aqsa Mosque
- extrajudicial executions
- Islamic Waqf
- Muhammad Hussein
- Mahmoud Abbas
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Yoav Mordechai
- Gilad Erdan
- Nickolay Mladenov
- European Union
- António Guterres
- Baraa Hamamda
- Dheisheh refugee camp
- Aws Muhammad Yousif Salameh
- Jenin refugee camp
- dum-dum bullets
- Ayed Abu Eqtaish