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Israeli police shoot dead man at Jerusalem’s holiest site News

Israeli police say they shot and killed a man who allegedly tried to wrest an officer’s gun at the entrance to a Jerusalem holy site.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police shot and killed a man who allegedly tried to seize an officer’s gun at the entrance to a Jerusalem holy site early Saturday, raising fears of more violence during a moment of increased tension in the critical point complex.

Police said the man killed was Mohammed Alasibi, 26, from Hura, a Bedouin Arab village in southern Israel. Palestinian worshipers at the entrance to the site on Saturday morning had a different version, saying the man was shot at least 10 times by police after he tried to prevent a woman on her way to the holy site from being harassed.

Hours after the incident, the muddy stone alley leading to the compound was still smeared with blood.

Authorities said officers detained the man for questioning outside the holy compound that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, Islam’s third holiest shrine. The compound, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, is also the holiest site in Judaism.

The disputed precinct of the city has been the focus of clashes in the past, particularly in times of turmoil in Israel and the West Bank. This year, as violence escalates in the occupied territory under the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, fears of an escalation in Jerusalem have grown with the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Israeli police have increased their forces in the area as tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers from Jerusalem and the West Bank gather to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

On Friday, more than 200,000 Palestinians gathered for midday prayers at the compound, which passed peacefully.

Just after midnight Saturday, police said Alasibi attacked one of the officers and reached for his gun, managing to fire two rounds into the air as the officer struggled to restrain him. Police described the incident as an attempted terrorist attack, saying he was shot and killed in self-defense.

But Palestinian worshipers who thronged the compound on Saturday insisted the man was not a terrorist. Noureddine, a 17-year-old who lived in the neighborhood and declined to give his last name for fear of retaliation, said he saw Alasibi confront police who had detained a worshiper on her way to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Alasibi’s relationship to the woman was unclear. He said some kind of disagreement arose between Alasibi and the officers before he heard a dozen shots.

“Nothing could justify so many shots,” he said, pointing to the chaotic footage he filmed showing Palestinian vendors and worshipers screaming at the sound of bullets being fired in rapid succession. “They were all point blank.”

Palestinian media widely reported that Alasibi was a doctor who had recently studied medicine in Romania.

Noureddine said police tried to force Palestinian vendors and worshipers out of the area after the incident, beating him and others with batons. Israeli police briefly closed the site before reopening it for dawn prayers.

Clashes at the hilltop compound have sparked broader violence in the region in the past. Clashes at the site in May 2021 helped fuel the outbreak of a bloody 11-day war between Israel and Hamas rulers in the Gaza Strip.

Early Saturday, residents of the Old City shared videos of Israeli police entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to remove a banner belonging to the Islamic militant group Hamas that hangs above the shrine calling on worshipers to confront right-wing Jews who were planning to tour. the venue on Sunday.

Settlers from the Old City and devout Israeli Jews have visited the Temple Mount in increasing numbers in recent years. Under a longstanding agreement known as the status quo, Jews can visit the site but not pray. Any small perceived change in the status quo on the site can trigger violence.

Over the past year, clashes between Israelis and Palestinians have escalated in the occupied West Bank. At least 86 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israelis or settlers this year, according to an Associated Press tally. Palestinian attacks on Israelis have killed 15 people in the same period. Israel says most of the dead have been militants. But young people who were throwing stones in protest against the police incursions and people not involved in the clashes have also been killed.



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