A suspected assailant was killed by Israeli soldiers after a West Bank car ramming 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 an Arab Israeli allegedly snatched a gun from a police officer at Jerusalem‘s Al-Aqsa mosque compound and fired it before being shot dead.
The army said a “terrorist” had conducted a “ramming attack adjacent to the town of Beit Ummar” before being neutralised, with a spokesperson confirming to AFP the presumed assailant’s death.
Magen David Adom medics 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 dead 26-year-old medical student Mohammed al-Asibi, a resident of the Bedouin village of Hura in southern Israel.
According to police, Asibi had snatched a gun from an officer and fired it at other police officers close to the nearby Chain Gate, an access point to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Passers-by reported hearing gunfire, and an AFP photographer saw scores of police deployed in the Old City at around 1:00 am (2200 GMT on Friday).
Asibi’s family has disputed the police account of his death and demanded to see CCTV footage, Israeli media reported.
Raam, the Israeli parliament’s Islamist party, rejected the police account of events, noting in a Facebook post the claims from “witnesses” who said Asibi came to aid a woman who was in a scuffle with police. It called for an investigation.
The umbrella organisation representing Israel’s Arab citizens announced a “general strike and day of mourning” on Sunday following the “execution” of Asibi.
Police, meanwhile, were standing by their original version of events and issued another statement Saturday afternoon saying that the site of the attack was not covered by surveillance cameras.
A video released by police showed what was described as Asibi milling around the compound alone. Another video showed people at the Chain Gate reacting in fright, presumably to the sound of gunshots.
The police also rejected the notion a woman was involved, saying Asibi “arrived alone”, with officers suspicious of his presence at the compound after closing hours.
The shooting occurred hours after tens of thousands of Palestinians had packed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound for the second Friday prayers of Ramadan, which had passed off peacefully despite fears of bloodshed during the holy month.
Israeli police said more than 100,000 faithful had gathered to pray at Islam’s third holiest site, built on what Jews call the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.
More than 2,000 police officers had been deployed across the city.
The Jordanian body which administers the mosque compound put the number of worshippers at 250,000.
An upsurge in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the beginning of the year has raised fears of bloodshed during Ramadan.
Since the start of the year, the conflict has claimed the lives of 88 Palestinians, including militants and civilians, and one Arab Israeli.
Fourteen other Israelis, including members of the security forces and civilians, and one Ukrainian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.