Israeli border police check identification documents as they stand guard outside Damascus Gate, a main entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, on Saturday.—AFP
Israeli border police check identification documents as they stand guard outside Damascus Gate, a main entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, on Saturday.—AFP

JERUSALEM: Security forces locked down parts of Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday and an ultra-sensitive holy site remained closed after an attack that killed two police officers and heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Three Arab Israeli assailants opened fire on Israeli police on Friday in the Old City before fleeing to the nearby Haram al-Sharif, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, where they were shot dead by police.

Israeli authorities said they had come from the flashpoint holy site, which includes the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, to commit the attack.

The authorities took the highly unusual decision to close the Al Aqsa mosque compound for Friday prayers, leading to anger from Muslims and Jordan, the holy site’s custodian.

Wael Arabiyat, Jordan’s Islamic affairs minister, warned that keeping Al Aqsa mosque closed is “dangerous” and “unprecedented”. On Friday, Amman called for the immediate reopening of the mosque.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated it will stay closed until at least Sunday while security was assessed, and rejected Jordan’s criticism.

“Instead of denouncing the terrorist attack, Jordan chose to attack Israel,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying by officials, and called for restraint.

Netanyahu also spoke of increasing security at entrances to the site when it reopens — likely to be a controversial move.

On Saturday, access was restricted through Damascus Gate, the main entrance used by Palestinians into Jerusalem’s Old City, and only residents with identification were allowed to pass.

“This is not security. This is punishment,” said Bader Jweihan, 53, an accountant who was denied entry.

“They want to punish the Arab Jerusalem citizens.”

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2017

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