Authorities close down Al Aqsa. Grand Mufti of Jerusalem freed from Israeli custody. He was detained after a call for Muslims to rush to Al Aqsa for prayers following the mosque's closure.

 Israeli policemen examine the scene of the shooting attack at the Al Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City on July 14, 2017.
Israeli policemen examine the scene of the shooting attack at the Al Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City on July 14, 2017. (TRT World and Agencies)

Three Palestinians and two Israeli policemen were killed on Friday in a shoot-out inside the flashpoint of Al Aqsa's compound.

According to a statement by the Israeli police, three Palestinian gunmen reached the Old City of Jerusalem's Lion's Gate near the Al Aqsa compound on Friday, opened fire and fled towards the Al Aqsa mosque where they were shot dead by Israeli police officers. In the incident, two policemen were also killed and a third one was wounded.

TRT World's Oliver Whitfield-Miocic reports.

The identification of the gunmen has been withheld by the Israeli authorities but all are appeared to be residents of an Arab city, Umm al Fahm in northern Israel, journalist Gregg Carlstorm told TRT World. He said the authorities had issued an order preventing the three men from being named by the media.

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials.

Prayers cancelled

Police said Friday prayers for Muslims would not be held at the Al Aqsa mosque following the attack for security reasons, while forces scanned the area for weapons and investigated the incident.

The closure prompted hundreds of Muslim worshippers to gather outside the walled Old City gates and hold prayers there.

Authorities have often restricted access to the Al Aqsa mosque when concerned about possible violence there, but a total shutdown is rare.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Ahmad Hussein (center) on Nov. 14, 2014.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Ahmad Hussein (center) on Nov. 14, 2014. (Anadolu Agency File)

"We completely reject the ban by Israeli authorities," Jerusalem's Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Hussein told Reuters by telephone. "We have urged our Palestinian people to rush to Al Aqsa today and every day to hold their prayers."

The Grand Mufti was detained by Israeli security forces and released later.

Jordan also urged Israel to "immediately reopen" the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. Jordan is the custodian of the compound in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, and has repeatedly denounced what it says are violations of rules at Islam's third holiest site.

"Israel must reopen Al-Aqsa mosque and the Haram al-Sharif (compound) immediately," said government spokesman Mohamed Momani, who is also information minister.

Phone call

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Friday and condemned the deadly shooting near Jerusalem's holiest site, official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

"The president [Abbas] expressed his strong rejection and condemnation of the incident at the blessed Al Aqsa Mosque and his rejection of any act of violence from any side, especially in places of worship," WAFA said.

"Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ... called for calm on all sides," it added.

Netanyahu's office confirmed the phone call in a statement that said Abbas had condemned the attack.

"The prime minister said that Israel will take all the necessary measures in order to ensure the security on the [holy site] without changes in the status quo," a statement from his office said.

Rising violence

Israel annexed East Jerusalem, where the Old City and the holy compound are located, after the 1967 Middle East war and regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, a move that is not recognised internationally.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they want to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel blames the wave of violence on incitement by the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinian government, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, says desperation over the occupation is the main driver.

Since October 2015, more than 285 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during or immediately after alleged attacks on Israelis or in clashes with Israeli security forces, according to Palestinian figures.

Israeli authorities, meanwhile, say almost 50 Israelis have been killed in attacks carried out by Palestinians over the same period.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies