A Hamas militant opened fire in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, killing one and wounding four others before Israeli police fatally shot him.
It was not immediately clear whether Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, had ordered the attack or whether one of its members had acted alone.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has largely adhered to a ceasefire with Israel since an 11-day war in May, and shootings attacks in the Old City are rare.
Police said the attack took place near an entrance to a contested flashpoint shrine known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Violence surrounding the site, which is considered holy by both faiths, has triggered previous rounds of fighting including the war in May.
Israeli officials said Eliyahu Kay, a 26-year-old immigrant from South Africa, was killed in the shooting. Kay had recently worked at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray. One of the four people wounded was in serious condition.
Police identified the attacker as a 42-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem. Palestinian media identified him as Fadi Abu Shkhaidem, a teacher at a nearby high school.
In Gaza, Hamas praised the attack as a “heroic operation” and said Abu Shkhaidem was one of its members, but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack.
“Our people’s resistance will continue to be legitimate by all means and tools against the Zionist occupier until our desired goals are achieved and the occupation is expelled from our holy sites and all of our lands,” spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanou said.
Hamas has fought four wars against Israel since it took control of Gaza from the rival Fatah group in 2007.
Israel and Egypt have together maintained a stifling blockade on Gaza since the Hamas takeover, causing great harm to the territory’s already weak economy. Israel and Hamas have conducted indirect talks through Egyptian mediators since the May conflict intended to cement a long-term ceasefire.
Israele, the US and the EU consider Hamas a terrorist group. The UK said on Friday that it also intended to ban Hamas as a terrorist group and would no longer differentiate between its political and military wings.
Israel’s figurehead president, Isaac Herzog, called on other countries to follow suit as he landed in the UK on Sunday for an official visit. “The fact the terrorist was from Hamas’ ‘political wing’ compels the international community to recognise it as a terror group,” he tweeted.
Dimiter Tzantchev, the EU ambassador-designate to Israel, condemned what he described as a senseless attack against civilians. “Violence is never the answer," Egli ha detto.
Sunday’s incident was the second of its kind in Jerusalem’s Old City in recent days. A Palestinian teenager was fatally shot on Wednesday after stabbing two Israeli border police officers.
Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks targeting Israeli civilians and security personnel in recent years. Palestinians and rights groups contend some of the alleged rammings were accidents and accuse Israel of using excessive force.
Shootings around Jerusalem’s Old City and its holy sites are relatively rare, tuttavia, and Israel maintains a sizeable security presence in the area.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy sites, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war. It later annexed East Jerusalem in a move unrecognised by most of the international community.
The Palestinians seek the occupied West Bank and Gaza for a future independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.