A suspected attacker was killed by Israeli soldiers after ramming cars in the West Bank on Saturday, the Israeli army said, in an escalation of its threat to end a relative lull during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan so far.
The Palestinian’s death came less than 24 hours after an Arab-Israeli allegedly snatched a gun from a police officer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem and set it on fire before being shot 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 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.
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Early on Saturday, police said they shot dead a 26-year-old medical student Muhammad al-Osaibi, who lives in the Bedouin village of Hura in southern Israel.
According to police, Osaibi had snatched a gun from an officer and fired it at other police officers near the nearby Chain Gate (Bab al-Silsela), an access point to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israel’s Old City- attached hereto. east of Jerusalem.
Eyewitnesses alleged that Israeli officers assaulted a Palestinian woman who was trying to re-enter the mosque.
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).
Osaibi’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 Osaibi came to help a woman who was in a scuffle with police. He called for an investigation.
The umbrella organization representing Israel’s Arab citizens announced a “general strike and day of mourning” on Sunday after the “execution” of Osaibi.
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.
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.
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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 in the same period, according to tallies based on official sources from both sides.
The increased security comes ahead of Passover, which begins on April 5 and lasts for a week.
Israeli residents are set to storm the mosque to mark the holiday at a time when Palestinians observing the holy month of Ramadan usually fill the area. Some settlers have asked authorities to allow them to perform ritual animal slaughter in the mosque’s courtyard, which risks provoking the Palestinians.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and an area where non-Muslim prayers and rituals are prohibited according to decades of international agreements.
Israeli groups, in cooperation with the police, have long violated the sensitive arrangement and facilitated unsolicited visits to the site and performed prayers and religious rituals.
Israel’s control of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, violates several principles under international law, which state that an occupying power does not have sovereignty over the territory it occupies and cannot make any permanent changes there.