Two Palestinians armed with a meat cleaver and a gun, killed four people in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday before being shot dead by police, the deadliest such incident in six years in the holy city amid a surge in religious conflict.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to respond with a “heavy hand”, and again accused Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence in Jerusalem. Abbas condemned the attack, which comes after a month of unrest fueled in part by a dispute over Jerusalem’s holiest shrine. A worshiper at the morning service in the Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of 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 Jewish prayer shawl lying dead, a bloodied butcher’s cleaver on the floor, several overturned prayer tables and prayer books covered in blood.
“We are viewing this as a terrorist attack,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, who confirmed the four dead and that the two assailants, both from predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, had been shot dead by police. Israel’s ambulance service said at least eight people were seriously wounded.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said it carried out the attack.