Three Palestinians and two Israeli policemen were killed in a shootout near Masjid Al-Aqsa Jerusalem’s Old City early on Friday, Israeli police claimed. Following the incident, the Masjid was closed down for Friday by the Israeli authorities.
According to police, the armed Palestinians arrived at the sacred hilltop compound and opened fire and fled towards Al Aqsa mosque where they were shot dead by police officers on Friday.
“When they saw policemen they shot toward them and then escaped toward one of the mosques in the Temple Mount compound,” police spokesperson Luba Simri said.
According to Al Jazeera, the three attackers were armed with two machine guns, a pistol and a knife, according to Israeli police. They were then pursued inside the Al Aqsa mosque compound. In the courtyard of the compound a final gun battle ensued between the gunmen and Israeli security forces.
The three Palestinians were shot and left on the ground bleeding while medics were reportedly prevented from approaching them, witnesses told the Maan News.
The management of Al Aqsa mosque quoted saying that the bodies of two Palestinians were inside the courtyard of the compound.
The New Arab reported that a footage of the incident on Israeli TV stations showed a few seconds of what appeared to be confrontation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinians. In the video, several people - only visible as dark figures in the footage shot from a distance - were running inside the compound. At one point, one of the figures dropped to the ground. In another moment, a puff of smoke, possibly from gunfire, was visible.
Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Friday and condemned the shooting.
“The President expressed his strong rejection and condemnation of the incident that took place at Al Aqsa mosque, as well as his rejection of any violent incidents from any side, especially in places of worship,” the report said.
Abbas also called on Netanyahu to end the shutdown of the holy site. Netanyahu assured Abbas the long-standing status quo at the compound, which gives Muslims exclusive prayer rights, would be maintained.
With the mosque closed, hundreds of Palestinians instead held prayers near Damascus Gate.
The latest alleged gunfight is expected to increase tension between the two nations. The site, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest site, and the seventh-century Dome of the Rock, is also revered by Jews as the site of the historic Temple.