In an extraordinarily brazen assault, three men armed with guns and knives attacked Israelis early Friday in the vicinity of what Jews call the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, Jerusalem’s holiest site for both faiths and an emotional and volatile focal point of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Israel’s police chief says two officers were killed in the attack. Emergency services earlier reported three Israelies were wounded.
According to initial police reports, the three assailants, assumed to be Palestinians, fled into the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque after the attack and were killed by police officers.
The police announced that they had evacuated the compound of worshipers and closed it. Helicopters circled above the area after the attack.
Israel’s prime minister promised to preserve long-standing access arrangements at a contested Jerusalem holy site, in an apparent attempt to allay Muslim fears after Israel ordered the volatile shrine closed.
Benjamin Netanyahu says the Muslim-administered sacred compound will be shut Friday for security reasons to make sure there are no weapons there. He says the status quo governing the site ‘‘will be preserved.’’
The gates around the Old City of Jerusalem have been the scene of numerous deadly stabbing and gun attacks, mostly of police officers guarding the historic area that is also popular with tourists. Dozens of civilians have also been killed in a wave of Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem, the West Bank and cities across Israel since the fall of 2015.
The Old City, a hotly contested area, is in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and then annexed in a move that was never internationally recognized.
A month ago, during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, three Palestinians from the West Bank armed with an improvised submachine gun and knives attacked police officers near the Old City’s Damascus Gate, killing one.
The Islamic State took responsibility for the June attack, though that claim could not be confirmed independently, and it was dismissed by the Israeli security services, who said they found no direct links or communications between the assailants and the group.
After the attack on Friday, the police posted a photo on Twitter of the guns apparently used by the attackers.