Israeli police say they killed man who fired shots at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque
Israeli police on Saturday shot dead an Arab man who the force said grabbed a gun from an officer and fired it in a scuffle at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound.
The dead man was identified as 26-year-old medical student Mohammed al-Asibi, a resident of the Bedouin village of Hura, in southern Israel.
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Asibi’s family has disputed the police account of his death and demanded to see CCTV footage, local media said, with police saying there was none.
In a statement, police said Asibi was stopped near the Chain Gate, an access point to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
As he was being questioned, the statement said, Asibi “suddenly attacked one of the policemen,” grabbing his gun and firing it.
“In a swift response of the officers who were in danger and struggling with the terrorist, they shot him,” added the statement, saying medics later pronounced him dead.
Passers-by reported hearing gunfire, and an AFP photographer saw scores of Israeli police deployed in the Old City at around 1:00 am (2200 GMT on Friday).
Raam, the Israeli parliament's Islamist party, rejected the police’s 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.
Mansour Abbas, Raam’s head, questioned the authorities’ response that there was no footage of the alleged attack.
“This is a cover-up attempt to hide the truth,” he said on Twitter, demanding an immediate investigation.
On Saturday, Rahat and Tel Sheva, two large Bedouin locales in the south, joined Hura in a general strike following the event, Israeli media reported.
Police were standing by their original version of events and issued another statement Saturday afternoon claiming “the attack itself was not recorded on security cameras or on the body cameras of the police officers.”
They 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 on the second Friday of Ramadan for peaceful prayers.
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 throughout the city.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had seen an upsurge of violence since the beginning of the year, raising fears of a flare-up during Ramadan.
The past 10 days since the start of the holy Muslim fasting month have seen a relative lull in violence.
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