Gunman kills 6 near Jerusalem Synagogue
Israeli police said the attack happened in Neve Yaakov, a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem. He said forces rushed to the scene and fired at the shooter. “The terrorist has been neutralized,” he said, using a term that usually means an attacker has been killed. There was no immediate confirmation of his condition.
Israel’s National Rescue Service, MADA, initially confirmed five dead and five others injured, including a 70-year-old woman, a 60-year-old woman and a teenager. Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem later said a man in his 40s died of his injuries.
The shooting was the deadliest against Israelis since a 2008 shooting that killed eight people at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Given the location and timing, he threatened to trigger a harsh response from Israel.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has scheduled a meeting with his army chief and other senior security officials.
On Thursday night, militants in Gaza fired a barrage of rockets into southern Israel, all of which were either intercepted or landed in open areas. Israel responded with a series of airstrikes on targets in Gaza. No casualties were reported. Earlier in the day, Gallant ordered Israel to prepare for further action in Gaza “if necessary”.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for Friday’s shooting. In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the attack was “revenge and a natural response” to the killing of nine Palestinians in Jenin on Thursday.
In several places in the Gaza Strip, dozens of Palestinians gathered in spontaneous demonstrations to celebrate the attack on Jerusalem, some emerging from dessert shops with large trays of sweets to hand out. In downtown Gaza, celebratory gunshots could be heard, as cars honked and cries of “God is great!” emitted by the loudspeakers of the mosque. In the West Bank city of Jericho, Palestinians threw fireworks and honked their horns in celebration.
The attack added to tensions already heightened following the deadly military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, where nine people, including at least seven activists and a 61-year-old woman, were killed. It was the deadliest raid in the West Bank in two decades. A 10th Palestinian was killed in separate fighting near Jerusalem.
Palestinians marched in anger earlier Friday as they buried the last of 10 Palestinians killed a day earlier.
Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters broke out after the funeral of a 22-year-old Palestinian man north of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, but calm reigned in the disputed capital and the blockaded Gaza Strip during the most of the day.
Signs that the situation might be calming quickly dissipated with the Friday night shooting. Israel’s opposition leader, former Prime Minister Yair Lapid, called it “horrible and heartbreaking”.
There was no immediate response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Blinken’s trip is now likely to be heavily focused on reducing tensions. He will likely discuss the underlying causes of the continuing escalating conflict, the agenda of Israel’s new far-right government and the Palestinian Authority’s decision to end security coordination with Israel in retaliation for the murderous raid.
The Biden administration has been deeply engaged with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent days, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, stressing the “urgent need here for all parties to defuse to prevent further loss of civilian life and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank.
“We are certainly deeply concerned about this cycle of escalating violence in the West Bank as well as the rockets that have apparently been fired from Gaza,” Kirby said ahead of the new shooting. “And of course, we condemn all acts that only escalate tensions.”
While residents of Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank were nervous, midday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, often a catalyst for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police, passed off in relative calm.
Palestinian rockets and Israeli airstrikes seemed limited in order to avoid turning into a full-fledged war. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several minor skirmishes since the militant group seized power in Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
Tensions have skyrocketed since Israel intensified its raids in the West Bank last spring, following a series of Palestinian attacks. Jenin, which was an important militant stronghold during the 2000-2005 intifada and has re-emerged as such, has been at the center of many Israeli operations.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem last year, making 2022 the deadliest in those territories since 2004, according to leading Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Last year, 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
So far this year, 30 Palestinians have been killed, according to an Associated Press tally.
Israel says most of the dead were militants. But young people protesting the incursions and others not involved in the clashes were also killed.
Anwar Gargash, a senior diplomat in the United Arab Emirates, warned that “Israeli escalation in Jenin is dangerous and disturbing and undermines international efforts to advance the priority of the peace agenda.” The United Arab Emirates recognized Israel in 2020 along with Bahrain, which has remained silent on rising violence.
In the West Bank, Fatah announced a general strike and most shops were closed in Palestinian towns. The PA said Thursday it would end ties its security forces have with Israel in a joint effort to contain Islamic militants. Previous threats were short-lived, in part because of the benefits the authority derives from the relationship, and also because of US and Israeli pressure.
The PA has limited control over scattered enclaves in the West Bank, and almost none over militant strongholds like the Jenin camp.
Israel says its raids are intended to dismantle militant networks and thwart attacks. The Palestinians say they are further entrenching Israel’s 55-year and endless occupation of the West Bank, which Israel captured along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. that these territories form an eventual state.
Israel has established dozens of settlements in the West Bank that house 500,000 people. Palestinians and much of the international community view the settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace, even as talks to end the conflict have been moribund for more than a decade.