Palestinian gunman kills 7 near Jerusalem synagogue
JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian gunman opened fire outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem on Friday night, killing seven people including a 70-year-old woman and wounding three others before being shot dead by police, officials said.
JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian gunman opened fire outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem on Friday night, killing seven people including a 70-year-old woman and wounding three others before being shot dead by police, officials said. It was the deadliest attack on Israelis in years, increasing the likelihood of more bloodshed.
The attack, which took place as local residents were celebrating the Jewish Sabbath, came a day after an Israeli military attack killed nine Palestinians in the West Bank. Friday’s shooting sparked celebrations in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with people firing guns in the air, honking horns and handing out candy.
The outbreak of violence, which included rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli retaliation, posed an early challenge for Israel’s new government, which is dominated by ultranationalists who are being urged to take a hard line against Palestinian violence. It also threw a cloud over a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region on Sunday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters at Israel Police Headquarters that he had conducted a security assessment and decided on “immediate action.” He said he will convene his Security Cabinet Saturday night after the end of the Sabbath to discuss another response.
Netanyahu declined to elaborate, but said Israel will act with “determination and composure.” He called on the public not to take the law into their own hands.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US strongly condemned the attack and was “shocked and saddened by the loss of life”.
US officials later on Friday said President Joe Biden had spoken to Netanyahu to offer US support to the government and people of Israel, calling the shootings “an attack on the civilized world.” “The President stressed the US’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security,” the White House said of the call.
Israel Police said the shooting took place in Neve Yaakov, a settlement with a large ultra-Orthodox population, and the gunman fled in a car. Police said they gave chase and killed him after an exchange of gunfire.
Jerusalem Police Chief Doron Turjeman confirmed seven dead alongside the gunman and said three people were injured.
Police identified the attacker as a 21-year-old East Jerusalem resident who appeared to be acting alone. Turjeman promised “aggressive and significant” efforts to track down anyone who helped him.
Police also released a photo of the pistol they said was used by the attacker.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant huddled with Israel’s military chief and other senior security officials, ordering them to help police and strengthen defenses near Jerusalem and for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“Israel’s Defense Institute will take decisive and forceful action against terrorism and will reach out to anyone involved in the attack,” Gallant said.
According to the Israeli rescue service MADA, five men and two women were killed, including several over 60 years old. Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital said a 15-year-old boy is recovering from surgery.
The attack was the deadliest for Israelis since a shooting in 2008 that killed eight people at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, according to the State Department. Given the place and timing, it threatened to provoke a harsh response from Israel.
On Thursday night, militants from the Gaza Strip fired several rockets into southern Israel, all of which were either intercepted or landed in open areas. Israel responded with airstrikes on targets in Gaza. No casualties were reported and calm appeared to be falling ahead of Friday night’s shooting.
There was no direct assumption of responsibility. In Gaza, Hazem Qassem, spokesman for the ruling militant group Hamas, said the attack was “revenge and a natural response” to Thursday’s deadly military attack.
In several places in Gaza, dozens of Palestinians gathered in impromptu demonstrations to celebrate the attack in Jerusalem, with some coming out of dessert shops with large trays of sweets to hand out.
Solemn gunfire was heard in downtown Gaza City as cars honked their horns and shouted “God is great!” came from mosque loudspeakers. Palestinians set off firecrackers in various West Bank cities.
The attack escalated tensions that had already escalated following Thursday’s raid on the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp, which killed nine people, including at least seven militants and a 61-year-old woman. It was the deadliest single attack in the West Bank in two decades. A 10th Palestinian was killed in separate fighting near Jerusalem.
Angry Palestinians marched on Friday as they buried the last of those killed a day earlier.
After the funeral of a 22-year-old Palestinian, scuffles broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters north of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, but calm reigned in the embattled capital and blockaded Gaza for most of the day.
That suddenly resolved with the shooting in East Jerusalem, which was described by Yair Lapid, the opposition leader and former prime minister, as “terrifying and heartbreaking”.
Neve Yaakov is a religious Jewish settlement that Israel considers a neighborhood of its capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians aspire to East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War, as the capital of their future state.
Blinken’s journey now will likely focus heavily on defusing tensions. He is likely to discuss the root causes of the conflict, the agenda of Israel’s new far-right government, and the Palestinian Authority’s decision to end security coordination with Israel in response to the Jenin raid.
The Biden administration has engaged intensively with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent days, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, underscoring the “urgent need for all parties to de-escalate here to stop the further loss of civilians.” prevent, and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank.”
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several minor skirmishes since the militant group seized power in Gaza from rival forces in 2007.
Tensions have risen since Israel stepped up crackdowns in the West Bank following a spate of Palestinian attacks last spring.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2022, making it the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to leading Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Last year, 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
According to a count by The Associated Press, 30 Palestinians have been killed so far this year.
Israel says most of the dead were militants. But youth protesting against the raids and others not involved in the clashes were also killed.
Israel says its crackdowns serve to disrupt militant networks and thwart attacks. The Palestinians say they are further cementing Israel’s 55-year, indefinite occupation of the West Bank, which was conquered along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed.
Josef Federman and Isabel Debre, The Associated Press