Four people were killed in a terror attack at a synagogue in a Jerusalem neighborhood Tuesday morning.
Police said two attackers from East Jerusalem entered the synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood at 7 a.m. and began attacking worshipers at morning prayers with a gun, a meat cleaver, and an ax.
Both terrorists were killed by police within seven minutes.
Israel Police said there were six injured, including two policemen, one of whom was seriously injured, and another moderately hurt.
A man who prays at the synagogue told The Times of Israel that one of the victims was American, and another British. That report was not immediately confirmed.
The attack occurred at the Kehilat Yaakov synagogue, located in a religious institution which includes a study hall.
One of the worshipers said the two terrorists shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the attack, and entered the synagogue without their faces covered.
Photos taken from inside the synagogue after the attack showed bloodied male worshipers lying on the floor, still wrapped in their prayer shawls and phylacteries.
A witness, identified only as Zohar, said there was panic at the scene.
“I heard shooting and one of the worshipers came out covered in blood and shouted ‘There’s a massacre,'” he said.
A video shot by a bystander shows police engaged in a shootout with the attackers.
Both terrorists were from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, Channel 2 reported. Clashes between residents and security forces broke out in the neighborhood.
Initial reports indicated the two were affiliated with the Marxist-Leninist terrorist group People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad hailed the attack, saying it was in reaction to the death of a Palestinian bus driver.
In a statement, the Islamist Hamas movement, which dominates Gaza, said it was “a response to the murder of the martyr Yusuf Ramouni.” It was referring to the bus driver from East Jerusalem who was found hanged inside his vehicle late on Sunday. Palestinian media claimed he was murdered; an autopsy established that he committed suicide.
The attack came a day after tensions in Jerusalem once again ramped up in the wake of Ramouni’s suicide Sunday night. The driver’s family claimed he had been killed by Jewish extremists, setting off riots and strikes in the capital Monday.
Here’s a summary of the main developments:
Two men armed with axes, knives and a pistol have killed four Israelis and wounded several others in a Jerusalem synagogue in the worst such attack in years. Two Palestinians were killed in shootout with police at the scene, a synagogue in the ultra-orthodox Har Nof district of west Jerusalem where 25 had gathered for morning worship.
The suspects were named as cousins Ghassan Abu Jamal, and Uday Abu Jamal, who both member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The group praised the attack but stopped short of claiming responsibility. Hamas, which also hailed the attack, said it was a response to the killing of a Palestinian bus driver, Yusuf Ramuni.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond with a “heavy hand”, and blamed Palestinian leaders for incitement. One member of his government called for the homes of the suspects to be demolished.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack. A statement from his office said Abbas “condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it”.
US Secretary of State John Kerry led international condemnation of the attack and urged Palestinian leaders to “restrain any kind of incitement”. The leaders of all the main parties in Britain also condemned the attack, while Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond urged both sides to “de-escalate tensions”.
One of the victims was identified as a rabbi who taught at a Jerusalem seminary. Witnesses, including paramedics, described horrific scenes at the synagogue.
There have been reports of violence between Palestinians and Israeli settlers and the security forces in the wake of the attack.There are also fears of revenge attacks on Palestinians by hardline Israelis, as one group organised a protest rally.
Four people were killed early Tuesday morning when Palestinian assailants entered a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood. The two terrorists, from East Jerusalem, were killed. Condemnation over the attack has poured in from Israeli and international leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, blamed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for inciting terrorism against Israel. The Times of Israel is liveblogging developments.
ZAKA head Yehuda Meshi Zahav tells Army Radio: “I’ve seen attacks with much higher death tolls, but the scenes this time were worse than any I have seen.”
He protests the fact that gruesome images have been posted on the internet, exacerbating the grief of the victims’ families.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas calls a meeting of his “inner security cabinet,” including Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, for an urgent consultation following the morning’s terror attack in Jerusalem, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports.
Ahead of the meeting, Abbas calls for calm and a stop to the attacks “so that we can work on the diplomatic level to bring about peace in the Middle East.”
In a statement also posted by the official Palestinian Wafa news agency, Abbas says he “strongly condemns” the attack, echoing an earlier statement from his office.
A Zaka first responder from Har Nof says Tuesday’s incident was “the worst attack since Mercaz Harav,” referring to the 2008 attack on a yeshiva. He says there was a long pool of blood down the hallway, and he walked into the shul and saw the men in their blood-soaked prayer shawls and phylacteries.
Another volunteer, named Yisrael, said it was “utterly, utterly chilling” and was one of the most gruesome attacks he’s seen.
EU foreign policy chief blames lack of talks
The attack in the Har Nof synagogue this morning “can only harm any step forward toward peace,” the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, says. “It is an act of terror against worshipers at morning prayers and is condemnable by all means.”
Mogherini calls on all leaders in the Middle East to “work together and do their utmost to immediately calm down the situation and prevent further escalation.” She invites all sides “to refrain from any action that would worsen the situation by way of incitement, provocation, use of force or retaliation. I utterly condemn all statements calling for or praising such attacks.”
Lack of progress in efforts to achieve a two-state solution will “systematically ensure the next round of violence,” adds Mogherini, who visited Israel and the Palestinian territories over the weekend. “The time has come for both sides to make compromises, promote stability and ensure long-term security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders are responsible for the urgent restart of peace talks, she says. “The absence of a credible political framework is used instrumentally and leads to further hardening of ideological and religious stands.”
After a meeting called by Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, police raise the threat level to one notch below the highest designation.
Danino also said that patrols around mosques, synagogues, and holy sites would be enhanced.
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