7 dead in shooting outside east Jerusalem synagogue
JERUSALEM: A gunman killed seven people at an east Jerusalem synagogue on Friday, Israeli police said, in a dramatic escalation of violence that followed a deadly raid in the West Bank a day earlier.
The shooting in the Neve Yaakov neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem came even as international calls for calm mounted after Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip traded missile fire earlier Friday.
“At around 8:30 pm (1830 GMT), a terrorist arrived at a synagogue in the Neve Yaakov boulevard in Jerusalem and proceeded to shoot at a number of people in the area,” a police statement said, adding that the shooter was “neutralised”.
A police spokesman told AFP seven people had been killed.
The Magen David Adom emergency response service reported a total of 10 gunshot victims, including a 70-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy.
“I heard a lot of bullets,” Matanel Almalem, an 18-year-old student who lives near the synagogue, told AFP.
Israel’s extreme-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attended the scene shortly after, an AFP photographer reported. Police were dismantling a white vehicle believed to have belonged to the shooter.
The United States condemned the “absolutely horrific” attack.
“Our commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad, and we are in direct touch with our Israeli partners,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.
Just hours earlier, Washington had urged “de-escalation” over the West Bank violence and Gaza rocket fire.
Nine people had been killed Thursday in what Israel described as a “counter-terrorism” operation in the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp.
It was one of the deadliest Israeli army raids in the occupied West Bank since the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, of 2000 to 2005.
Israel said Islamic Jihad operatives were the target.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas Islamists who control Gaza vowed to retaliate, later firing several rockets at Israeli territory.
Most of the rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defences. The military responded with strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.
There were no injuries reported on either side, but Gaza’s armed groups have vowed further action.
The United Nations human rights office had called earlier for an end to the “endless cycle of violence” in the West Bank, saying on Twitter that it “must end”.
As Israeli forces raided the crowded Jenin refugee camp early Thursday, gunshots rang through the streets and smoke billowed from burning barricades.
The military said Israeli forces came under fire during a “counterterrorism operation to apprehend an Islamic Jihad terror squad” and shot several enemy combatants.
The violence prompted the Palestinian Authority to announce it was cutting security coordination with Israel, a move criticised by the United States.
The military said the incursion targeted Islamic Jihad militants who were allegedly behind attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians and, according to Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant, were planning “to conduct a terror attack in Israel”.
Three Palestinians were shot in a firefight, while Israeli forces shot a further two “fleeing the scene”, an army statement said. Israeli forces also shot a sixth suspect inside a building, and other Palestinians were hit after firing on troops, the army said.
There were no casualties among the Israeli forces, the military added.
Wisam Bakr, director of the Jenin Government Hospital, said there was a “state of panic” in the paediatric ward, with some children suffering from tear gas inhalation.
The Israeli military told AFP “the activity was not far away from the hospital, and it is possible some tear gas entered through an open window”.
Jenin resident Umm Youssef al-Sawalmi said homes were hit during the raid. “Windows, doors, walls and even the refrigerator, everything was damaged by the bullets,” she told AFP.
Thursday’s deaths brought the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank this year to 30, including fighters and civilians, most of whom were shot by Israeli forces.
Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri vowed that Israel “will pay the price for the Jenin massacre”.
Washington earlier Thursday announced US secretary of state Antony Blinken would travel next week to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will push for an “end to the cycle of violence”.
A State Department spokesman on Friday confirmed the visit would go ahead.
The mounting tolls follow the deadliest year in the Palestinian territory recorded by the UN.
At least 26 Israelis and 200 Palestinians were killed across Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2022, the majority in the West Bank, according to an AFP tally from official sources.