Israeli authorities have refused to cancel the mass funeral service for the 19 people killed in an attack on a mosque in the southern city of Jerusalem on Saturday, in the latest in a series of incidents to strike the city in the last two weeks.
The mass funeral was due to take place in the northern city of Safed on Sunday, but Israeli media reported that officials had postponed it because of the violence.
It was reported on Sunday that the authorities had cancelled the funeral, citing the threat of a terror attack, and that the organizers had appealed for permission to hold the service in the city of Beit El, which has a large Muslim population.
However, the city’s police chief said the government would not allow it to take away the people who attended the funeral.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said it would allow the service to take off in Safed, but not in Beit Eil or other cities where there are large Muslim populations.
The incident took place as the city was in mourning following the killing of a Jewish woman by a Palestinian on a bus on the West Bank, and as Jerusalem saw its worst days in weeks.
Two of the victims were teenagers and a woman was wounded, both of whom were shot in the head.
The attackers, who were not known to Israel’s security services, attacked the mosque on Friday afternoon when they approached it from behind.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing a group of armed men in a dark blue van.
The van stopped and two men jumped out and began shooting.
They then ran away in a black vehicle, according to the witnesses.
The mosque was also hit by gunfire.
An 18-year-old man was killed in the attack and a 17-year old girl was wounded in a stabbing attack.
Three men were arrested and charged with murder.
A third man was released on bail.
Two more men were detained for questioning.
The police chief on Sunday described the incident as a terrorist attack.
“The attack that took place in Beitar Illit (Jerusalem) was clearly an act of terror,” Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino told Army Radio.
“This is a terrorist act, which is in response to the violent acts by a terrorist group that have no respect for the laws of the State of Israel,” he said.
He added that police had detained six men and released another six on bail and would continue their investigation.
The Interior Ministry has ordered the arrest of three suspects, who are still in custody, and the police chief promised to release them on bond.
Two police officers were killed in clashes with Palestinian militants near the mosque and another was wounded by gunfire during the incident.
A third suspect, a 22-year man, has been arrested, and police have said he will be interrogated.
The attack on the mosque comes just a day after an Israeli court rejected a petition filed by the families of two of the attackers to postpone the mass ceremony.
The petition was filed on Friday after the funeral for a 19-year and 24-year, respectively, woman who died from her injuries.
In a statement released on Saturday evening, the families called for the cancellation of the service and said they hoped the government will reconsider.
“Our request is for the Israeli government to reconsider its decision to cancel our mass funeral, as the attack has caused grave and irreparable damage to the community and our families,” the statement said.
“We urge the Israeli authorities to allow the event to take on a different form, with the aim of helping the wounded to return home and to rebuild their lives.”
Police have previously described the attacks as an attempt by “armed terrorists” to target Israeli and Jewish citizens.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the mosque was being used as a target for Palestinian attacks and the army had launched an air strike on a suspected Hamas training camp.
The attacks have been condemned across the world, with several U.N. Security Council members including France, China, India and Turkey condemning the attack.