Two Israeli police officers have been killed by Palestinian attackers near a major shrine in Jerusalem, officials said.

Three Palestinian attackers have opened fire on Israeli police from inside a major Jerusalem holy site, killing two officers before being shot dead, officials said.

The rare attack from within the contested shrine, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, raises new concerns about an escalation of violence.

The compound is at the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has triggered major confrontations in the past.
The senior Muslim cleric in Jerusalem was detained by police after the attack, according to his son.

Mohammed Hussein, based at the shrine, was taken to an Old City police station, his son Omar said.

Israel has closed the site for further weapons sweeps. The rare closure meant a cancellation of noon prayers, which typically draw tens of thousands of Muslims from Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to the compound on Fridays.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly tried to allay Muslim fears, saying the status quo at the Muslim-administered site “will be preserved”.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to Mr Netanyahu in a rare phone call to discuss the situation in Jerusalem, highlighting the concern about a possible escalation, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

The leaders have almost no direct contact.

Mr Abbas condemned the attack and said he rejects “any violence from any party, particularly at holy sites”.

Police identified the assailants as Arab citizens of Israel and members of the Jabareen clan.

A relative, Yehiyeh Jabareen, said they were devout Muslims who frequently visited the shrine, adding that clan members were in shock over the attack.

Israeli police chief Roni Alsheikh said the weapons used in the attack had been brought into the holy compound.

The attackers opened fire on the Israeli officers from inside the site, he said. In response, “a police force charged at the terrorists, killed two and wounded the third”.

The wounded assailant used a knife to attack an officer checking him for explosives and was killed, he added.

Muslim worshippers performed prayers in the streets near the walled Old City after police sealed off the area.

With the shrine off limits, the faithful lined up near Damascus Gate and other entrances to the Old City. Worshippers dispersed after the prayers without incident.

Mr Alsheikh said such an attack is “without precedent” at the holy site and an “incident of the highest severity”.

Amateur video broadcast on Israeli TV stations showed a few seconds of what appeared to be part of the chase in the compound.

In the video, several people – only visible as dark figures in the footage shot from a distance – were running inside the compound. A man who had dropped to the ground suddenly jumps up and lunges at one of the officers before he is shot.

Israel’s Embassy in the UK tweeted that it was a “sad morning in Israel – Three Israelis have been injured after terrorists opened fire on policemen near a holy site in Jerusalem”, whilst The Board of Deputies of British Jews tweeted: “Our thoughts are with those wounded in today’s despicable terror attack in Israel’s capital”.

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said: “I strongly condemn the horrific terror attack in Jerusalem. I am saddened and appalled by this despicable act and offer my condolences to the victims and their families. The UK continues to stand with Israel against terrorism.”