Armed Palestinians kill four in Jerusalem synagogue attack
JERUSALEM: Two Palestinians armed with a meat cleaver
and a gun killed four worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday before
being shot dead by police, the deadliest such incident in six years in the holy
Three of the victims held dual US-Israeli citizenship
and the fourth man was a British-Israeli national, police said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to
respond with a “heavy hand” and accused Western-backed Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence in Jerusalem. Abbas condemned the attack,
which took place after weeks of unrest fuelled in part by a dispute over
Jerusalem's holiest shrine.
A worshipper at the service in the Kehillat Bnei Torah
synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Jewish West Jerusalem said
about 25 people were praying when shooting broke out.
“I looked up and saw someone shooting people at
point-blank range. Then someone came in with what looked like a butcher’s knife
and he went wild,” the witness, Yosef Posternak, told Israel Radio.
Photos distributed by Israeli authorities showed a man
in a prayer shawl lying dead, a bloodied butcher’s cleaver on the floor and
prayer books covered in blood.
Obama condemns attack
Meanwhile in WASHINGTON, US President Barack Obama on
Tuesday condemned the attack by two Palestinians on a synagogue in Jerusalem
that killed four people including US citizens Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William
Levine and Mosheh Twersky and called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to
lower tensions and seek peace.
“I strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack on
worshipers at a synagogue in Jerusalem,” Obama said in a statement. “There is
and can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians.”
“At this sensitive moment in Jerusalem, it is all the
more important for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to
work cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence, and seek a path
forward towards peace,” he said.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the two
assailants, both from Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, were shot dead by police
in a gun battle outside the synagogue. Netanyahu, said Israel would demolish
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
militant group said it carried out the attack, which it called a ‘heroic
operation’. The four dead - Twersky, 59, Kupinsky, 43, Levine, 55, and Avraham
Shmuel Goldberg, a 68-year-old British-Israeli - were all ordained rabbis.
A Jewish seminary lecturer, Twersky was from a
Hassidic rabbinical dynasty. Thousands of mourners attended his funeral.
Palestinian radio described the attackers as ‘martyrs’
and Hamas, the dominant group in the Gaza Strip, praised the attack. Loudspeakers
at mosques in the enclave called out congratulations and youngsters handed out
candy in the streets.
named the assailants as Ghassan and Udai Abu Jamal, cousins from the Jerusalem
district of Jabal Mukaber, where clashes broke out as Israeli security forces
moved in to make arrests.