Hamas gunman kills one, injures four in Jerusalem’s Old City

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A Hamas activist opened fire in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, killing one and wounding four others before Israeli police shot him down.

It was not immediately clear whether Hamas, an Islamic militant group vowed to destroy Israel, ordered the attack or whether one of its members 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 in the Old City are rare.

Police said the attack took place near the entrance to a disputed shrine known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Violence around the site, which is considered sacred by both faiths, has sparked previous rounds of fighting, including the May War.

Israeli officials said Eliyahu Kay, a 26-year-old South African immigrant, was killed in the shooting. Kay had recently worked at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray. One of the four injured was in serious condition.

Police identified the assailant 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 hailed the attack as a “heroic operation” and said Abu Shkhaidem was one of its operatives, but did not claim responsibility for the attack.

“The resistance of our people 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 places and all our lands,” said spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanou.

Hamas has waged four wars against Israel since it took control of Gaza from rival Fatah in 2007.

Israel and Egypt have jointly maintained a suffocating blockade on Gaza since the Hamas takeover, causing serious damage to the territory’s already weak economy. Israel and Hamas have conducted indirect talks through Egyptian mediators since the May conflict aimed at cementing a long-term ceasefire.

Israel, the United States and the EU consider Hamas a terrorist group. The UK said on Friday that it also intends to ban Hamas as a terrorist group and will no longer differentiate between its political and military wings.

Leading Israeli President Isaac Herzog called on other countries to follow suit as he landed in the UK on Sunday for an official visit. “The fact that the terrorist belonged to the political wing of Hamas forces the international community to recognize him as a terrorist group,” he tweeted.

Dimiter Tzantchev, the EU’s designated ambassador to Israel, condemned what he described as a senseless attack on civilians. “Violence is never the answer,” he said.

Sunday’s incident was the second of its kind in the Old City of Jerusalem in recent days. A Palestinian teenager was shot and killed on Wednesday after stabbing two Israeli border police officers.

In recent years, Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbing, rifle and car-ramming attacks against Israeli civilians and security personnel. Palestinians and rights groups argue that some of the alleged punches were accidents and accuse Israel of using excessive force.

However, shootings around Jerusalem’s Old City and its holy sites are relatively rare, and Israel maintains a significant security presence in the region.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy sites, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war. It then annexed East Jerusalem in an unrecognized move by most of the international community.

Palestinians seek the occupied West Bank and Gaza for a future independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

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