Four Israelis were killed and eight others wounded on Tuesday when two Palestinians armed with axes, knives and pistols went on a rampage in a Jerusalem synagogue. The latest killings are part of a continuing cycle of violence in the holy city already on edge amid soaring tensions over its most contested holy site. CCTV America’s Stephanie Freid reported this story from Jerusalem.
The men inside the Jerusalem synagogue had gathered for daily morning prayers and were unarmed and unprepared for the two armed Palestinian men who barged in and began a killing spree. The assailants, cousins from East Jerusalem, were shot dead at the scene. Police spokeswoman Luba Samri identified them as Ghassan and Oday Abu Jamal from the Jabal Mukaber.
Police said the dead worshippers were three Americans and a Briton, and that all held dual Israeli citizenship. The attack occurred in Har Nof, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood that has a large population of English-speaking immigrants.
The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem identified the Americans as Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William Levine, and Mosheh Twersky.
Twersky, the grandson of a renowned rabbi from Boston, Joseph Soloveichik, was the head of Yeshivas Toras Moshe, a religious seminary for English-speaking students. Israeli authorities identified the British man as Avraham Goldberg.
In addition to those killed, eight others were wounded and in serious condition.
The killing took place in one of Jerusalem’s docile, religious neighborhoods where prayer dominates politics. A police spokesperson told CCTV America that the assailants were aware of the location.
This marks the deadliest attack to hit Jerusalem in six years and the latest in a string of violent clashes between Palestinians and Jews in Jerusalem in the past month.
United Nations and European Union officials, Canada’s Foreign Minister, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, all condemned the killings. Israel’s Prime Minister and Israeli officials blamed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for inciting the events and vowed to deliver “a heavy handed” response.
“The world has to make sure that the Palestinian Authority understands that it cannot win using terror. There’s no doubt in my mind. We will win this fight. We won it before and we will win it again,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Baraka said.
Abbas’ office issued a statement condemning the attack.
“The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it,” the office said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “respond harshly,” describing the attack as a “cruel murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by despicable murderers.” He immediately ordered the demolition of the attackers’ homes, as well as homes of Palestinians who carried out several other recent attacks.
Police and special forces surrounded the East Jerusalem homes of the two assailants, facing off against rock throwing Palestinians. They ransacked the attackers’ homes and apprehended a dozen of their relatives searching for evidence.
Neighbors and family members showed little remorse for the killings, blaming the violence on Israel for permitting right-wing Jewish activists to enter Islam’s third holiest site, the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“We are not dogs! We are human beings. They are the dogs. They are the racists. Netanyahu and his racist friends enter Al-Aqsa every day,” a cousin of Assailants said.
In the wake of Tuesday’s killings, Israeli police and security forces are on alert for a Palestinian backlash.
Much of the recent violence stems from tensions surrounding the Jerusalem holy site referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount because of the Jewish temples that stood there in biblical times. It is the most sacred place in Judaism; Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
The site is so holy that Jews have traditionally refrained from going there, instead praying at the adjacent Western Wall. Israel’s chief rabbis have urged people not to ascend to the area, but in recent years, a small but growing number of Jews, including ultranationalist lawmakers, have begun regularly visiting the site, a move seen as a provocation.
Four Israelis killed in Jerusalem, two Palestinian suspects shot deadFour Israelis were killed and eight others wounded on Tuesday when two Palestinians armed with axes, knives and pistols went on a rampage in a Jerusalem synagogue. The latest killings are part of a continuing cycle of violence in the holy city already on edge amid soaring tensions over its most contested holy site. CCTV America’s Stephanie Freid reported this story from Jerusalem.
Report compiled with information from The Associated Press.
Matthew Brodsky discusses Jerusalem attacks
CCTV America interviewed Middle East Expert Matthew Brodsky, the former director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center about the recent events.
Follow Matthew on Twitter at @RJBrodsky
Matthew Brodsky discusses Jerusalem attacksCCTV America interviewed Middle East Expert Matthew Brodsky, the former director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center about the recent events.