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April 1, 2023 2:14 pm

Israel Probes Lethal Police Shooting at Flashpoint Jerusalem Holy Site

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avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Israeli police stand guard near a security incident scene near Al-Aqsa compound also known to Jews as the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, April 1, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

A man detained by Israeli police near a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem grabbed an officer’s gun and fired it, prompting the unit to shoot him dead, the force said on Saturday, an account doubted by Arab leaders and probed by authorities.

In a separate incident, the Israeli military said an assailant had rammed his vehicle into a group of people, wounding three, near the Palestinian town Beit Ummar in the West Bank. Soldiers opened fire and “neutralized” the suspect, it said.

Israeli media reported the Palestinian motorist was shot dead. There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials.

The Jerusalem incident overnight at the edge of the Al Aqsa Mosque complex, an icon of Palestinian nationalism, came at a high point of Muslim attendance for the holy month of Ramadan amid heightened fears of an escalation in violence.

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Israeli-Palestinian tensions are simmering after months of violence in areas of Jerusalem and the West Bank and friction at Al Aqsa has often set off violence in recent years.

The sacred site, known to Muslims as The Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, remained relatively quiet on Saturday.

The slain man was identified as Mohammad Khaled al-Osaib, 26, a resident of Bedouin town Hura in south Israel. Lawmaker Mansour Abbas, whose United Arab List party is popular there, said he was a medical student and questioned the police account.

“All we demand is the truth,” Abbas said.

The Justice Ministry department for investigating police conduct is looking into the incident, a spokesperson said, adding the procedure was not a formal investigation.

Asked if the unit’s response was due to allegations of misconduct, she said: “There are such claims, and that’s why we’re looking into it.”

Reuters could not immediately verify the police account. Police said the incident took place at a spot not covered by security cameras. Footage of similar incidents in the past has usually surfaced within a short time.

Police released CCTV of what they said was al-Osaib walking across the complex alone right before the incident, which a spokesperson said happened in “seconds,” and denied reports he had intervened in an altercation with a female worshiper.

Israel‘s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said he backed the officers.

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