Israeli police fatally shoot man at Jerusalem’s holiest site
Israeli police have shot and killed a Palestinian man at an entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, raising fears of further violence.
The man killed on Saturday was 26-year-old Mohammad Khaled al-Osaibi from Houra, a Bedouin Arab village in southern Israel. The incident took place at about midnight near the Chain Gate, an access point to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, police said.
Palestinian worshippers at the entrance to the site on Saturday said police shot the man at least 10 times, after he tried to prevent them from harassing a woman who was on her way to the holy compound.
The police alleged al-Osaibi tried to take a gun from an officer and fired it in a scuffle.
Hours after the incident, the muddy stone alleyway leading to the compound was still stained with blood.
Israeli police have boosted their forces in the area as tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers from Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank gather for Ramadan prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
On Friday, more than 200,000 Palestinians gathered for noon prayers at the compound, which passed peacefully.
Noureddine, a 17-year-old who lived in the neighbourhood and declined to give his last name for fear of reprisals, said he saw al-Osaibi confront police who stopped a female worshipper on her way to the mosque.
Al-Osaibi’s relationship to the woman was not clear. Noureddine said some kind of disagreement broke out between al-Osaibi and the officers before he heard a dozen shots ring out.
“Nothing could justify that many shots,” he said, pointing to chaotic footage he filmed that showed Palestinian vendors and worshippers screaming at the sound of bullets being fired in rapid succession. “They were all at close range.”
Palestinian media widely reported al-Osaibi was a doctor who studied medicine recently in Romania.
Noureddine said police tried to force Palestinian vendors and worshippers out of the area after the incident, beating him and others with batons. Israeli police briefly closed the site before reopening it for dawn prayers.
In previous years, Ramadan has seen Israeli police attack Palestinians gathered around Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site. Ramadan coincides this year with Judaism’s Passover and Christian Easter.
In 2021, the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in Jerusalem served as a catalyst for widespread Palestinian protests across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
Raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli security forces during Ramadan heightened tensions further and, four days later, an 11-day Israeli assault on Gaza began, ostensibly in response to rockets fired by Hamas towards Israel.