PROVO — All students and personnel at the BYU Jerusalem Center are safe and accounted for after a terrorist attack a mile from the center on Friday left two policemen and three attackers dead.
The attack happened shortly after 7 a.m. near Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, according to NPR. The gun battle ended at the Temple Mount, where police killed the attackers.
The BYU Jerusalem Center sits halfway up Mount Scopus overlooking the Mount of Olives and the Old City, and it's about a 25-minute walk from the center to Lions’ Gate. Friday’s attack is the fifth terrorist attack at Lions’ Gate in the past 21 months, according to the Jerusalem Post.
BYU released a security update on the center's website on Friday.
"The Old City is always off limits on Fridays through 3 p.m. because tensions are always higher and the potential for violence greater," the alert said. "Therefore, there were no students or other Center personnel in the Old City today. For now, the restrictions on travel to the Old City have been extended through at least Sunday."
The alert also described the incident. “An attack today in the Old City of Jerusalem left two policemen dead. While more brazen and deadly, this follows the pattern of the attacks over the past several years: directed at Israelis in uniform (or sometimes, in religious dress although this morning's attack was only on the police). Attacks in the past have been mostly with knives and cars. This one differed from the pattern some in that guns were used."
The BYU Jerusalem Center opened in 1987. Unrest in the region led BYU to suspend studies there in 2000, but students returned in 2007. BYU security and administrators stay on top of security issues, and the center, while a mile from the Old City, is in an isolated area surrounded by important Arab sites and neighborhoods.
The Jerusalem Post reported that two Israeli police officers died, one the son of a former Israeli Druse Knesset member, and the other a new father.
The attackers were Arabs from northern Israel.
Jerusalem’s chief of police ordered the Temple Mount closed and evacuated, the Post reported. Friday Muslim prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque on the site were canceled. All gates to the Old City of Jerusalem were closed.
Muslim worshippers gathered outside security barricades to perform their prayers, NPR reported.
The attackers passed through strict security, according to the Post. Police didn’t know how they obtained their weapons or carried them through security. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Temple Mount closed so inspectors could search the area for more weapons.