Four Israelis killed in Jerusalem synagogue attack


Jerusalem/Gaza, Nov 18 Four Israelis were killed and eight injured in an apparent terror attack Tuesday morning in a synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of western Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel will respond to the attack with a firm hand.

A Palestinian left-wing group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), later claimed responsibility for the attack.

"Two assailants entered the synagogue Tuesday with knives, axes and guns and attacked worshippers," Haaretz quoted Israel Police spokeswoman Luba Samri as saying.

Samri said the attackers were Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

"The attackers were killed in a shootout with police," she confirmed.

Initially, police suspected that there might be a third assailant on the loose in the area, but later stated that it was no longer a concern.

Ambulances of the Magen David Adom emergency services administered first aid to the injured before evacuating them to various hospitals in the city.

A large number of police personnel have been stationed at the scene of the attack and were also deployed in the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Silwan and Jabal Mukaber.

"We heard the sirens and I went outside and saw police taking cover and shooting. Many shots were fired and I saw one of the police personnel getting wounded and the terrorists being killed," said Eliyahu Rotenberg, who resides near the synagogue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who held a security cabinet meeting in the afternoon, said that incitement by the militant group Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas led to the attacks on the Jews.

"This is a direct result of the incitement by Hamas and Abu Mazen (Abbas), incitement that the international community irresponsibly ignores," Netanyahu said.

"We will respond with a firm hand to this brutal murder of Jews who went to pray and were scathed by (the) despicable murder," he added.

Hamas praised the attack, describing it as "a quality development in the confrontation with Israeli occupation".

"The organisation welcomes the terror attack, an appropriate and functional response to the crimes of the occupation," the Gaza-based group added.

A Hamas spokesperson said the attack was in response to the death of a Palestinian bus driver Sunday night, Channel 2 news reported.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the attack was an act of "pure terror".

"This simply has no place in human behaviour," he said during a visit to London. He also called for Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack.

According to a Xinhua report from Gaza, the PFLP said that two of its members were responsible for the deadly synagogue attack.

The PFLP said in an e-mailed press statement that the two attackers were members of the group, and that "the attack was a natural response to the Israeli attacks on Jerusalem and on the Palestinians".

Rabah Muhana, a senior PFLP leader from Gaza, said in an e-mailed press statement that "the Palestinians should work hard on making the Israeli occupation of our territories illegal by unifying our efforts and ending the internal Palestinian division".

He called for an end to the security cooperation with Israel and for "intensifying armed resistance together with focusing on the Palestinian diplomacy to end the occupation and gain back the legitimate rights of the Palestinians".

However, the Palestinian presidency condemned the attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem, saying it "condemns all kinds of attacks that target civilians regardless of who is behind it".

"There has to be an immediate stop of breaking into al-Aqsa Mosque and an end to the provocations of settlers and incitement of Israeli cabinet ministers. There has to be an end to Israeli occupation, defusing of tension and violence," the presidency said in a statement, adding that the Palestinians were committed to a fair solution based on the two-state principle and respect the understandings reached in Jordan to restore calm in Jerusalem.

Israel Radio, quoting Israeli security sources, identified the two east Jerusalem attackers as Ghassan Abu Jamal and Odai Abu Jamal, both cousins and residents of Jabal al-Mukaber neighbourhood in east Jerusalem.

Security sources also told the radio that the two are members of the PFLP.

The violence comes amid high tension in Jerusalem, with a wave of attacks by Palestinians on Israelis killing at least six people in recent weeks.

The tensions largely stem from the expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, territories which were annexed by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War, but were home to more than 300,000 Palestinians.

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