Security at the Damascus Gate, July 2017.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
For the second time in under a month, terrorists have carried out deadly attacks in Jerusalem’s Old City. But, in a dangerous escalation, Friday’s incident ended with the Israeli-Arab assailants being shot and killed in the Temple Mount complex.
While there have been multiple shootings and stabbings in the Old City in the past two years, they are rare on or near the Temple Mount and the deaths of the attackers in one of the Islam’s holiest spots could lead to serious unrest.
Two Israeli policemen, identified as Haiel Stawi and Kamil Shnaan, were killed in the attack that was carried out by Muhammad Ahmad Mahmoud Jabarin, 29, and Muhammad Hamed Abd al-Latif Jabarin and Muhammad Ahmad Fadel Jabarin, both 19. All were Israelis from Umm el-Fahm.
While residents of the northern town of have carried out attacks in the past, Friday marks the first time in recent years they have accomplished one of this magnitude.
According to police, the attackers came from the Temple Mount and opened fire at Israeli officers near the Old City’s Lions’ Gate exit before fleeing back to the Temple Mount complex where they were killed by police. Their weapons of choice were knives, the Carl Gustav- style submachine gun and handguns.
Following the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a security briefing with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, IDF chief Lt.-Gen.
Gabi Eisenkot, Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman, Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai.
Erdan called the attack “an extremely serious event that crossed all redlines” and said there was a need to “reevaluate all of the security arrangements on the Temple Mount and its environs.”
Last month, a Border Police officer, Hadas Malka, 23, was stabbed to death, during a coordinated effort by three Palestinians near the Damascus Gate, the site of several terrorist attacks over the past couple years.
Malka was attacked by two Palestinians, one with a knife and the second with a Carl Gustav-type submachine gun, which jammed without firing. A third attacker, in a second location, wounded two other Israelis being before shot and killed.
Following that incident, Netanyahu said he was considering turning the Damascus Gate area into a “sterile area,” but it has not been made clear what exactly that meant. Security personnel have a constant and extensive presence at the Damascus Gate – the main entrance to the Muslim Quarter.
Since October 2015, Palestinians have stabbed, run over and shot Israeli soldiers and civilians, including some tourists, in a wave of violence in the West Bank and Green Line Israel. Some 280 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, a majority of them attackers, according to authorities.
While the violence has since decreased since its peak in the winter of 2016 when there were almost daily incidents, two coordinated shooting attacks in Jerusalem within the span of a month have some questioning what can be done.
Israeli security forces, including the Shin Bet intelligence agency, Israel Defense Forces and police, have increased their efforts to uncover unofficial workshops that produce illegal weapons, carrying out near-nightly raids in the West Bank, shutting down factories and confiscating arms.
The IDF has seized approximately 150 firearms and raided 20 workshops since the beginning of 2017.
Last year, more than 50 gun-making workshops were shut down and more than 500 illegal weapons were seized – a significant increase from the 170 weapons seized in 2015.
As a result, the price of the most popular weapon, the Carl Gustav, tripled from NIS 1,500 in January 2015 to NIS 4,500 in December 2016. It now sells for NIS 10,000 in Hebron.
But military operations play only a partial role in stopping attacks, especially when those who carry them out are from inside Israel.
Like many communities across the Arab sector, Umm el-Fahm has suffered a disproportionately high rate of violent crime for years.
Authorities must intervene on a social level, working with community leaders and family members of those they consider at risk of carrying out attacks to help dissuade them.