Israeli police have taken the rare step of barring Palestinians from Jerusalem’s Old City for two days after the fatal stabbing of two Israelis.
The measure comes with Jerusalem on a high security alert after the attack on Saturday night, which also saw a child and a woman wounded.
Two ultra-Orthodox Jews, one of whom was an IDF soldier, were stabbed on their way to the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.
They were named as Nehemia Lavi, 41, from Jerusalem and Aharon Bennett, 21, from the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit.
Mr Bennett’s wife, 22, was injured and remains in serious condition in hospital, and their two-year-old son suffered light wounds. A second child was left unharmed.
The perpetrator was named as Mohannad Hallabi, a 19-year-old Palestinian law student from a village near Ramallah, West Bank.
After stabbing the Israelis, he grabbed a pistol from one of the victims and opened fire into the crowd, police told The Daily Telegraph.
He was shot dead by police at the scene of the attacks. Before the attack, Mr Hallabi posted a picture on Facebook of a fellow student, Diaa Talhama, who was killed in the West Bank two weeks ago. “The third intifada is already here,” he wrote.
Yesterday (Sunday), Israeli police announced that the Old City will be closed to Palestinians. Only Israelis, tourists, residents, business owners and students will be allowed to enter the area. The restrictions will apply for two days. Approximately 3,500 police officers have been deployed in the Old City, police said.
Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, said yesterday: “This is a correct example of how the police need to act. The closure is intended to protect Jews who only want to pray.”
In addition, only Palestinian male worshippers over the age of 50, as well as Palestinian females of any age, will be allowed to pray in the Al Aqsa compound, known by Jews as the Temple Mount.
A few hours after the fatal attack, an Israeli teenager was injured in another stabbing in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian perpetrator was shot dead.
Tensions have risen further in the city in the wake of the attacks. Members of the extremist Jewish Lehava group sprayed tear gas into a Palestinian’s face on Saturday, while other members stormed a cafe looking for “Arab employees”, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
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