JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli police shot and killed a 25-year-old Palestinian near the Lion’s Gate entrance to Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City early Monday morning after he allegedly stabbed two Israeli police officers, who were lightly and moderately injured.
25-year-old Ibrahim Mahmoud Matar, from Jabal al-Mukabbir
The slain man was identified as Ibrahim Mahmoud Matar, a resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood Jabal al-Mukabbir, located south of the Old City.
The shooting happened ahead of the Muslim fajr (dawn) prayers, as worshipers were headed to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Witnesses told Ma'an they saw a dispute inside an Israeli police post located near Lion’s Gate between an Israeli policeman and a Palestinian "who was carrying a stick.”
Israeli police then forced the young man outside of the enclosure and “executed” him at point blank range with with four bullets, leading to his immediate death, witnesses said.
Referring to the dispute that lead up to the shooting, eyewitnesses told Ma’an that Israeli police were “controlling the situation” and could have easily detained Matar without using lethal force.
However, a statement released by Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri alleged that Matar entered the police post with a knife and stabbed two Israeli police officers before a third police officer shot and killed him immediately.
According to al-Samri, Matar had arrived to the area in his car, which he parked near Lion’s Gate. Israeli border police stopped him as he tried to walk through Lion’s Gate and led him into the police room to search him, when he “attacked” two Israeli border police officers that were inside.
A third officer was able to leave the room, and then shot and killed Matar, the police statement said.
Al-Samri said the first officer sustained moderate injuries, while the second was lightly injured.They were both taken to a hospital for medical treatment.
Following the killing, Israeli forces were heavily deployed in and around Lion’s Gate and prevented many Palestinians from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray, with witnesses saying the lockdown lasted from 4:30 until 6 a.m.
Later Monday morning, Israeli forces raided Matar’s home in Jabal al-Mukabbir and detained his brother, parents, and his uncle, according to locals and Israeli police.
Israeli police detain Ibrahim Mahmoud Matar's brother after the shooting.
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said in a written statement later Monday morning that Israeli police were carrying out "general security measures" in public areas across Jerusalem as celebrations for the Jewish holiday of Purim were scheduled throughout the day, and that investigations into the shooting were ongoing.
The incident came as Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip were placed under temporary blockade for the duration of the Jewish holiday
, with the Israeli army imposing a closure on all travel -- with the exception of "humanitarian and special cases" -- in and out of the occupied territory from between midnight on Friday and until midnight on March 13 between Monday night and Tuesday morning.
Israel often implements massive closures on the Palestinian territory during Jewish holidays. Last year during Purim, Israel shut down all checkpoints between the occupied West Bank and Israel and occupied Jerusalem, and all checkpoint crossings with the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians were also restricted access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, in East Jerusalem with all Palestinian men younger than 50 denied entry to the site.
Restrictions at the mosque compound during a succession of Jewish holidays in September 2015 played a major role in triggering a wave of unrest that has since left some 250 Palestinians and 35 Israelis killed.
Amid the unrest, rights groups have disputed Israel's version of events in a number of cases, denouncing what they have termed as a "shoot-to-kill" policy against Palestinians who did not constitute a threat at the time of their death, or who could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner -- amid a backdrop of impunity for Israeli forces who have committed the killings.
Israel's response to attacks have meanwhile be denounced as "collective punishment" and illegal under international law