Israel – A militant of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement opened fire Sunday in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing one person and wounding three before he was shot dead, Israeli officials, police and medics said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ordered security to be boosted and called for people to be on “heightened alert” over the risk of further attacks.
The four wounded, two police officers and two civilians, were rushed to Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital, where one of the civilian victims died.
“This morning there was a serious shooting attack in the Old City of Jerusalem,” Bennett said in a statement. “At the moment we have one dead and three wounded.
“Two policewomen and one policeman quickly neutralised the terrorist.”
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation identified the victim as Eliyahu Kay, an immigrant from South Africa, who was employed by them as a guide at the Western Wall plaza.
The immigration ministry said he was 25 and had come to Israel in 2019.
His funeral was set to take place Monday morning in Jerusalem.
Washington issued a statement “strongly” condemning the attack.
“We offer our condolences to the victims and their families,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
After the shooting, dozens of police officers deployed on the narrow streets of the historic walled city, as workers hosed pools of blood from the cobblestones, said an AFP reporter.
The Old City is in the Israeli-annexed eastern part of Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.
– ‘Premeditated attack’ –
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, in a move not recognised by most of the international community.
Israel’s Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said the attacker was a Palestinian living in east Jerusalem’s Shuafat area.
“He was a member of Hamas, the political branch, not the armed wing,” Bar-Lev told Israel’s Kan television channel, saying the gunman’s wife had travelled abroad three days ago, while his son was also out of the country.
“It seems that this attack is premeditated,” Bar-Lev said.
Police identified him as a 42-year-old east Jerusalem resident.
Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip, identified the attacker as Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, congratulated him and hailed the “continuation” of the fight to “liberate” Jerusalem.
But Hamas did not specifically claim the attack, which came six months to the day since the end of an 11-day war in Gaza with Israel in May.
On Sunday evening, hundreds of people marched through the Shuafat refugee camp in support of Hamas.
In a recent sermon delivered in a Jerusalem mosque viewed by AFP, Abu Shkhaydam accuses Israelis of being oppressors “financed by Satan and the United Arab Emirates”, the Gulf monarchy that normalised ties with the Jewish state last year.
– Terror listing –
On Friday, Britain said it intended to follow the United States and European Union in placing an outright ban on Hamas as a terror group, saying it was not possible to distinguish between the Islamists’ political and military wings.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, on an official visit to Britain, said that “the fact the terrorist was from Hamas’s ‘political wing’ compels the international community to recognise it as a terror group”.
Attacks targeting Israeli security forces are common in the Old City as well as in the occupied West Bank. They are often carried out by individual young Palestinian men in so-called lone-wolf attacks.
On Wednesday, Israeli security forces shot dead a 16-year-old assailant who stabbed and wounded two police officers in the Old City.
“This is the second recent terrorist attack in Jerusalem,” Bennett said, adding he had ordered the security forces to “be alert… over concern for copycat attacks”.
The Jewish Hanukkah holidays begin on November 28.
Some 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, alongside 300,000 Palestinians.
Also Sunday, a 67-year-old Israeli was wounded in a stabbing attack in Jaffa by a Palestinian from the Nablus area, police said.
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