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White House condemns Temple Mount attack, 'applauds' Israel's response

Despite stressing that Trump wanted to move quickly, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the focus was to "get it done right," and not within the 100-day mark, which falls on April 29
Brendan Smialowski (AFP/File)

The Trump administration on Saturday condemned a shooting attack on the Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem that left two Israeli police officers dead on Friday, and appeared to condone Israel's decision to impose a controversial closure on the highly sensitive compound.

"The people of the United States are heartbroken that terrorists brutally gunned down two Israeli police officers," read a statement attributed to the Press Secretary Sean Spicer, "and we extend our prayers and sympathies to the families of the victims. The United States strongly condemns the terror attack."

Israel's closure of the compound, the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam, elicited angry reactions from across the Arab world, including Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and the Arab League, who accused Israel of using the attack as a smokescreen to bar Muslims form the site.

However the United States appeared to lend their support to the move, noting that it was temporary and saying it believed that Israel does not intend to change the delicate status quo that governs Jewish and Muslim prayer on the site, in Jerusalem's Old City.

"The attack forced the government of Israel to temporarily close the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif to conduct its investigation," the statement reads.

"Israel has assured the world that it has no intention to alter the status of this holy site, a decision which the United States applauds and welcomes. We urge all leaders and people of good faith to be understanding as this process proceeds and reaches its conclusion."

"There must be zero tolerance for terrorism," the statement continued. "It is incompatible with achieving peace and we must condemn it in the strongest terms, defeat it, and eradicate it."

Two Israeli police officers, Sergeant Major General Haiel Stawi, 30, and Lieutenant-Colonel Kamil Shanan, 22, both from predominantly Druze communities in northern Israel, were killed in Friday's attack.

A third victim remains in hospital in light to moderate condition after suffering a shrapnel injury.

The perpetrators were identified as three Arab-Israelis from the same family in the northern town of Umm Al-Fahm, Mohammad Ahmad Mohammad Jabarin, 29; Mohamman Hamed Abdal-Latif Jabarin, 19; and Mohammad Ahmad Fadel Jabarin, 19.

Security forces locked down the area and the Al-Aqsa mosque was closed to Friday prayers for the first time in decades, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) saying it was preparing for violent confrontations in the aftermath of the attack.

On Friday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would gradually begin lifting the lockdown on Sunday. 

The site has become the site of violent clashes in the past. Palestinians believe that Israel intends to change the status-quo at the site while many Israelis voice frustration over what they see as restrictions on Jewish prayer at the complex.

Israel has vowed repeatedly to maintain the status quo, which allows Muslim prayer there but forbids Jewish prayer and religious rituals.

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