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Armed Palestinians kill four in Jerusalem synagogue attack
19-11-2014

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 city.

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 their homes.

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.

Palestinian media 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.