White House Condemns Temple Mount Attack, Backs Israeli Decision to Close the Holy Site

'Israel has assured the world that it has no intention to alter the status of this holy site,' the White House says, 'a decision which the U.S. applauds and welcomes'

Israeli border police officers stand guard outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, July 15, 2017.
Mahmoud Illean/AP

WASHINGTON - The White House issued a statement on Saturday strongly denouncing Friday's terror attack in Jerusalem, and backing the Israeli government's decision to temporarily close access to the Temple Mount.

Israel made the rare move to shut the Mount after three Israeli Arab assailants opened fire there Friday, killing two Israeli police officers before being shot dead. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau said on Saturday evening that the site will be reopened on Sunday under heightened security. 

"Yesterday, the Holy City of Jerusalem – which means 'City of Peace' – became a scene of terror," the statement says. "The people of the United States are heartbroken that terrorists brutally gunned down two Israeli police officers, and we extend our prayers and sympathies to the families of the victims.  The United States strongly condemns the terror attack."

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The statement also said that "There must be zero tolerance for terrorism.  It is incompatible with achieving peace and we must condemn it in the strongest terms, defeat it, and eradicate it."

Regarding the sensitive situation on the Temple Mount, the statement said that "the attack forced the government of Israel to temporarily close the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif to conduct its investigation. Israel has assured the world that it has no intention to alter the status of this holy site, a decision which the United States applauds and welcomes.  We urge all leaders and people of good faith to be understanding as this process proceeds and reaches its conclusion."

The site is revered by both Muslims and Jews. Muslim worshippers as well as employees of the Waqf, the Muslim authority that administers the site, were barred from entering the site for a second day on Saturday. The rest of the Old City was also shuttered to Palestinians who don't reside there, while Israelis and tourists were allowed to enter undisturbed.