Israeli security officials and experts have been trying hard to blunt the impact of the terrorist shooting attack on Friday, July 14 at the Lion’s Gate entrance to Temple Mount, in which two Israeli border police officers were murdered and a third injured. However, this event has extraordinary broad and grave resonance – even for Jerusalem which had – and still has – more than its share of terror, because it was perpetrated at a world shrine sacred to billions of people.
The victims were two Border Police who live in northern Israel: Staff Sgts Kamil Shanan, 22, from Hofesh and Hayal Satawi, 30, from Marar, who were part of the detail guarding the shrine.
Owing to a grave intelligence and security lapse, three Israeli Muslim citizens from the Arab town of Umm al Fahm, were able to reach the broad plaza for an act of terror designed for a shock-effect to a degree unmatched since the Palestinian 2000 intifada.
The three gunmen were finally shot dead in a firefight with the police outside the shining gold Dome of the Rock in the Temple Mount compound.
Even a cursory look at the way this attack developed shows that Israel’s security services failed to draw the necessary lessons from the Palestinian attack on June 16 outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate. Then, too, it was a shooting attack in which three terrorists took part. One of them stabbed a female border guard officer to death.
So the writing was already on the Old City’s wall. However, the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility was brushed aside, although it was no longer possible to dismiss the attack as a “lone wolf” crime, as official spokesmen have maintained since the current wave of terror began two years ago. Their failure to correctly analyze the Damascus Gate attack gave the Temple Mount killers on Friday the advantage. Indeed they were several steps ahead of ahead of Israel’s law enforcement and anti-terror agencies.
Nonetheless, a new euphemism, “self-sacrifice terrorism,” was coined to explain the event, instead of a thorough investigation to pin down the hand behind the attack, which was obviously planned in detail.
The three-man team of gunmen was able to enter Temple Mount armed with two Karl Gustav rifles and a pistol. They had their photos taken with their weapons several hours before opening fire on the Israeli security detail.
This was the first time Muslim extremists have been known to mount a shooting attack at a holy place respected by Muslims, although it is sacred to all three of the world’s great monotheistic faiths, Jewish and Christian, as the historic site of the Jewish Temples. While still shooting, the three gunmen withdrew from the entrance into the broad plaza and headed for the mosques, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa.
The surviving border police officers gave chase after the killers, engaged them in a gun fight outside the Dome of the Rock and shot them all dead.
Their courage saved the day. Had the terrorists managed to barricade themselves in one of those shrines, Israel would have been confronted with the appalling predicament of dealing with armed terrorists holed up in a Muslim shrine, without igniting flames across the Middle East and beyond.
The funerals of the two police staff sergeants take place while a claim of responsibility for the outrage is awaited in suspense. debkafile’s sources detect ISIS hallmarks in the attack. It took the Islamist State 24 hours to assume responsibility for the Damascus Gate killing last month.
At all events, this would not be the first time the Islamic State has struck in Israel and is most likely not the last.
Another Israeli Arab, Nashat Milhem from Kfar Arara, killed two Israelis at an outdoor café in Tel Aviv on January 8, 2016. Six months later, on June 8, another terrorist murdered three Israelis. ISIS struck for the third time at Damascus Gate a month ago, stabbing to death Hadas Malka, a policewoman of 23.