Israeli Arab shot dead at Al Aqsa after allegedly attempting to grab policeman's gun

Former Knesset member Talab Al Saneh calls for police to release surveillance camera footage of the incident

Israeli police stepped up patrols in East Jerusalem's Old City after officers shot dead an Israeli Arab man outside the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday. AFP
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Israeli police shot and killed a man who allegedly tried to grab an officer’s weapon outside the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem on Friday night.

Police said the man, aged 26, was from an Arab village in southern Israel.

Authorities said the incident in Jerusalem's Old City happened when officers stopped him for questioning.

However, witnesses quoted by the Israeli news website Ynet said the man had intervened in a confrontation between police officers and a woman.

The Ynet report identified the man as Mohammed Elasibi from the Bedouin town of Hura. It said he had returned from Romania two weeks ago after completing his medical studies.

It quoted a witness as saying Mr Elasibi “did not hold a knife or a weapon, he did not pose a danger. Police officers treated a woman who was injured in an inappropriate manner and he intervened and tried to help her — then they shot him. The shooting was completely unnecessary.”

According to a police statement, Mr Elasibi was stopped for a check when he attacked one of the officers, grabbed his firearm, and managed to fire off a shot.

The officers felt threatened and responded with gunfire, “neutralising him on the spot”.

Former Knesset member Talab Al Saneh rejected this version of events and called on police to release surveillance camera footage from the area, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.

"The police claim that he tried to snatch someone's weapon is a lie and a fabrication," Wafa quoted him as saying.

Israeli police deployed heavily in the alleys and gates leading to the compound after the shooting. Scuffles broke out between police and Palestinian vendors and worshippers who spend the night praying at the mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.

More than 200,000 Palestinians had gathered earlier for Friday's noon prayers at the compound, which ended without the usual frictions with Israeli police.

The hilltop compound is revered also by Jews as the Temple Mount, and incidents there in previous years have led to clashes in the Israel-occupied West Bank and fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

The shooting on Friday is the latest in an escalation of violence between Israel and Palestinians this year. Eighty-six Palestinians have been killed by Israeli or settler gunfire this year, according to an Associated Press tally. Palestinian attacks have killed 15 Israelis in the same period.

Israel says most of those killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting police incursions and people not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their future independent state.

The Israeli military announced on Friday that border crossing from the West Bank and Gaza would be closed to Palestinians at the start and end of the Jewish Passover festival beginning next week.

The closure will begin at 5pm on Wednesday and end just before midnight on Saturday. However, some border crossings would reopen on Friday to allow Palestinian worshippers from the West Bank to enter Jerusalem to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque, the military said.

A second closure will begin on April 11 at 5pm and end at 11.59pm on April 12.

With reporting from Associated Press

Updated: April 06, 2023, 5:43 AM