Shortly after 7 a.m. on Friday morning, three terrorists who just finished prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosques on Temple Mount in Jerusalem killed two Israeli police officers. The terrorists then attempted to retreat to the Al Aqsa mosque where they were killed by other Israeli police officers.

The Temple Mount is among the holiest and the most contentious places in the country. Both the Jews and Arabs claim it for religious significance. However, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that the latest “terrorist incident” was stopped despite the death of the two policemen and added that all three attackers were killed. At least one had a knife and tried to stab Israelis, he said.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the attackers were from the Israeli Arab city of Um El Fahm and were Israeli citizens.

The slain officers were identified as Hail Stawi, 30, of Majar and Kaamil Snaan, 22, of Horfis.

Video from the Temple Mount esplanade showed Israeli security forces taking cover amid a hail of gunfire, and police shooting a man at close range. Police ordered the plaza cleared and closed ahead of noon prayers Friday.

The fighting inside the complex was one of the worst incidents of violence on the Temple Mount in years, and the images of the gun battle and fatalities are liable to raise tensions throughout the region. Violent clashes on the Temple Mount have been the spark for prolonged and deadly waves of Israeli-Palestinian violence in the past.

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The video from Israeli news shows one of the attackers fighting with and being shot by Israeli police.”

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the militant Palestinian group Hamas celebrated it.”

“The Hamas movement praises the guerrilla attack in Jerusalem. It is a legitimate right for our people and the best evidence of their unity in resisting the brutal occupation,” Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanua said.”

The area has been quoted in the Hebrew scriptures as Mount Zion and was where Abraham bound Isaac. In the Muslim religion, it was the site of Mohammed’s journey to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven.

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Photo courtesy Wikipedia