A suspected attacker was killed by Israeli soldiers after ramming a car in the West Bank on Saturday, the army said, in an escalation that threatens to end a relative lull during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan so far.
The Palestinian’s death came less than 24 hours after Israeli Arabs allegedly snatched a gun from a police officer at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem and set him on fire before shooting him dead.
The army said a “terrorist” carried out a “ramming attack near the town of Beit Ummar” before being neutralized, and a spokesman confirmed the death of the presumed attacker to AFP.
Magen David Adom doctors said the three men were taken to hospitals in Jerusalem with serious, moderate and light wounds.
In a statement, the Palestinian Authority identified the dead man as Mohammed Baradyah, 23.
Early Saturday, police said they shot 26-year-old medical student Mohammed al-Asibi, a resident of the Bedouin village of Hura in southern Israel.
According to police, Asibi had wrestled a gun from an officer and fired it at another police officer near the nearby Chain Gate, an access point to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israel’s Old City in annexed east Jerusalem.
Passersby reported hearing gunshots, and an AFP photographer saw scores of police deployed in the Old City at around 1:00 am (2200 GMT Friday).
Asibi’s family has disputed the police account of his death and demanded to see CCTV footage, Israeli media reported.
Raam, the Islamic party of the Israeli Parliament, rejected the police account of events, noting in a Facebook post the claims from “witnesses” who said Asibi came to help a woman who was in a scuffle with the police. He called for an investigation.
– ‘Execution’ –
The umbrella organization representing Israel’s Arab citizens announced a “general strike and day of mourning” on Sunday after the “execution” of Asibi.
Police, meanwhile, were standing by their original version of events and issued another statement on Saturday afternoon saying the site of the attack was not covered by surveillance cameras.
Video released by police showed what is described as Asibi milling around the compound alone. Another video showed people at the Chain Gate reacting in fear, presumably to the sound of gunshots.
The police also rejected the notion that a woman was involved, saying that Asibi came “alone”, and the officers were suspicious that he was present at the compound after closing hours.
The shooting happened an hour after thousands of Palestinians packed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound for the second Friday prayers of Ramadan, who died peacefully despite fears of bloodshed during the holy month.
Israeli police said more than 100,000 worshipers had gathered to pray at Islam’s third holiest site, based on what Jews call the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.
More than 2,000 police officers were deployed across the city.
The Jordanian body that administers the mosque compound put the number of worshipers at 250,000.
There are fears of bloodshed during Ramadan due to an increase in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the beginning of the year.
Since the beginning of the year, the conflict has claimed the lives of 88 Palestinians, including militants and civilians, and one Israeli Arab.
Fourteen other Israelis, including members of the security forces and civilians, and one Ukrainian were killed over the same period, according to AFP tallies based on official sources from both sides.