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Abbas calls Netanyahu to condemn attack that killed two Israelis

Photo-montage de portraits du Premier ministre israélien Benjamin Netanyahu (d) et du président palestinien Mahmoud Abbas
AFP
‘Druze community is paying the heaviest price’ for Israel’s security, says Netanyahu

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an unprecedented phone call, to condemn the shooting attack at the flashpoint holy site, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, leaving two Israeli police officers and the three Palestinian assailants dead Friday morning.

In the phone call with Netanyahu, Abbas "expressed his strong rejection and condemnation of the incident at the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque and his rejection of any act of violence from any side, especially in places of worship," official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

The Israeli Prime Minister also assured his Palestinian counterpart that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo surrounding the flashpoint issue of the Temple Mount or al-Aqsa, a site seen as holy to both Jews and Muslims.

Netanyahu has previously called out the Fatah leader for failing to denounce terror attacks by Palestinians carried out against Israelis and even accuses the Palestinian Authority of encouraging such attacks by offering payments to terrorists and their families.

Abbas has made calls for non-violent resistance to Israel but without specifically condemning Palestinian attacks. His statement regarding Friday's incident was stronger than previous such responses.

THOMAS COEX (AFP)

Netanyahu's office confirmed the phone call in a statement that said Abbas had condemned the attack.

"The prime minister said that Israel will take all the necessary measures in order to ensure the security on the (holy site) without changes in the status quo," the statement from his office said.

Condolences and condemnations poured in for the two Druze Israeli police officers who were killed.

“This is a difficult day for the Israel Police,” said Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich to reporters as he oversaw operations at the holy site. “We have two dead officers.”

The officers were identified as 30-year-old Haiel Sitawe and 22-year-old Kamil Shanan, both from Druze communities in northern Israel.

They were treated on the scene by emergency medical services before being evacuated to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Mt. Scopus Hospital where they were pronounced dead.

A third officer was wounded by shrapnel fire and remains in light to moderate condition.

Political reaction

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called shooting a "despicable act" aimed while commending the actions of the police officers.

"Whoever turns a holy place into the scene of a terrorist attack is committing a despicable act aimed at igniting a fire between members of the various faiths and undermining the stability in the country and the region as a whole," he stated.

"I applaud our security forces in their courageous daily struggle against terrorism and mourn the death of the officers who fell in the attack."

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman expressed "shock" and "horror" in a statement via Twitter.

“Terrorism must be condemned by all and defeated," he added. "We pray for the victims.”

Only hours after winding up a trip to Israel, Donald Trump's peace envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted condolences to the victims and praised the Palestinian President for speaking to Netanyahu following the attack.

"Important call from Pres Abbas to PM @netanyahu condemning Jerusalem attack. Hoping Pres Abbas helps PM bring those responsible to justice."

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov also tweeted that he was "shocked" at the Jerusalem attack.

“Places for worship are for prayer, not for violence. All must take a stand against #terror & condemn it,” he wrote.

Ahmad GHARABLI (AFP)

Druze paying 'the heaviest price'

Netanyahu issued his own statement offering condolences to the officers’ families and the Druze community noting that the Druze pay “the heaviest price” for Israel’s security.

"I would like to send heartfelt condolences to the families of those murdered in today's terror attack on the Temple Mount: Police officers - Sergeant Major Haiel Sattawi and Kamil Shanan,” the premier said in the statement.

“The Druze community is paying the heaviest price in our joint mission to defend the security of our country, and I salute them and their heroism, and their memory will always be preserved in our hearts."

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin echoed the sentiments in another statement commenting on the bravery with which the officers acted.

"The murderous terror attack was stopped by the courageous Israeli policemen who three themselves in the way and prevent an even great disaster," he said. "We cannot allow for agents of murder, who desecrate the name of God, to drag us into a bloody war. We will deal with a heavy hand against all the arms of terror, and its perpetrators."

"“We owe a debt of life to the sons we have lost, he added. "Our hearts are with the bereaved families at this difficult time, and we pray for the recovery of the wounded."

Sattawi, an officer since 2012, leaves behind his wife, Irin, a three-week-old son, his parents and three brothers.

Shanan was the youngest son of a former Labor Party Knesset member, Shachiv Shnaan. He leaves behind his parents, one brother and three sisters, and a fiance whose engagement party was to be held next week.

Both funerals will take place today in their home villages in northern Israel

UN chief fears Jerusalem attack could ignite more violence

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Friday that an attack that killed two Israeli police officers in Jerusalem could ignite more violence and said all sides must avoid escalation.

Three attackers opened fire near the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday, killing the officers, and the police immediately shot them dead in one of the most serious incidents in the city in recent years.

Guterres condemned the attack, adding: "This incident has the potential to ignite further violence. All must act responsibly to avoid escalation."

The UN chief praised Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for swiftly condemning the violence and offering assurances that the holy sites in Jerusalem will be respected.

"The sanctity of religious sites should be respected as places for reflection, not violence," Guterres said.

Security forces locked down the area and the Al-Aqsa mosque was closed to Friday prayers after the attack in a highly unusual move.

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