Israel: 4 dead after men with knives, gun attack Jerusalem synagogue
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Jerusalem (CNN) — A Jerusalem synagogue turned from peaceful sanctuary to house of horrors within moments Tuesday, after two Palestinian cousins wielding knives, axes and a gun attacked during morning prayers.
Police responded within minutes, shooting and killing the attackers inside the synagogue in West Jerusalem’s Har Nof area, said Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
But not before six people had been wounded, and three dual U.S.-Israeli citizens and a British-Israeli citizen had been killed.
The attack — the deadliest in Jerusalem since a man with an automatic weapon killed eight seminary students in March 2008 — came at a particularly tense time in the Israeli city, and the region at large. It follows a series of recent deadly stabbings and vehicle incidents that, while not the large-scale suicide bombings that defined last decade’s second intifada or the rocket attacks from Gaza earlier this year, that have left Jerusalem on edge.
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“While Israelis are a tough breed, repeated, totally unpredictable attacks are bound to take their toll,” said David Harris, an expert with the Israeli Project. “Is a mother going to allow her child to walk to school, to catch a bus to a movie theater or (ride a train) to visit a friend?”
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After the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office vowed “we will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were met by reprehensible murderers.”
His spokesman Mark Regev told CNN’s “New Day” that Israel’s police presence will be beefed up, saying, “We’ve got to make sure there are no copycat attacks.”
In the meantime, Israeli security forces took the offensive by moving into the slain attackers’ East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, where they clashed with residents and arrested nine people, police said. No details were available on the charges.
“We’re continuing to search the neighborhood to make sure there are not any further terrorists,” Rosenfeld said.
Netanyahu office called the attack “the direct result of incitement being led by Hamas” and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, referring first to the Palestinian group that controls Gaza and next to the Fatah movement leader in control of the West Bank.
Abbas condemned the synagogue bloodshed, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported, while stressing the need to end the causes of such attacks like tensions over what Jews call the Temple Mount and Palestinians call al-Aqsa Mosque.
Yet in Gaza, Palestinians not only didn’t condemn the attack, they celebrated it, according to the Jerusalem Post and photos shared by Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner.
Hamas — which has been at odds with Abbas and his Fatah movement — did not claim responsibility for the bloodshed, though it didn’t back away from it either. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the group, instead linked the attack to the discovery Sunday of an Palestinian bus driver found hanged in his bus not far from where Tuesday’s attack occurred.
Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad predicted to Al Jazeera International that “there will be more revolution in Jerusalem, and more uprising.”
“Hamas in general supports action against the occupation,” Hamad said. “Hamas supports any military action against the occupation anywhere it can be carried out.”
Four rabbis killed
A holy book and shawls covered in red. Lifeless bodies sprawled on the floor, a few feet away from desks and books. A bloodstained cleaver. Toppled chairs, and a shattered pair of glasses.
Those grisly scenes show the horror inside the Jerusalem synagogue, a place where — just before 7 a.m. — was a place of calm and peace, where more than 10 people had come to pray.
Israelis attacked in Tel Aviv, West Bank
Stopping violence in Jerusalem
It is a cruel irony that a region so blessed with the treasures of early human civilizations is also among those most troubled by conflict. As the violence threatens to annihilate some of history’s greatest monuments, we count the cost of our irreplaceable losses. By Kieron Monks, for CNN
Great Mosque of Samarra, Iraq
Once the largest mosque in the world, built in the 9th century on the Tigris River north of Baghdad. The mosque is famous for the Malwiya Tower, a 52-meter minaret with spiraling ramps for worshipers to climb. Among Iraq’s most important sites, it even featured on banknotes. The site was bombed in 2005, in an insurgent attack on a NATO position, destroying the top of the minaret and surrounding walls.
Video: ISIS targets historical artifacts
The Buddhas of Bamyan, Afghanistan
The most spectacular legacy of Buddhism in the war-torn country, among the tallest standing Buddhas in the world — the larger at 53 meters, the other 35 — had survived over 1,500 years since being carved out of sandstone. The Taliban considered the monuments idolatrous and destroyed them with dynamite.
The ancient city of Bosra, Syria
Continually inhabited for 2,500 years, and became the capital of the Romans’ Arabian
The Great Mosque of Aleppo, Syria
A world heritage site originally built in 715 by the Umayyad dynasty, ranking it among the oldest mosques in the world. The epic structure evolved through successive eras, gaining its famous minaret in the late 11th century. This was reduced to rubble in the Syrian civil war in 2013, along with serious damage to the walls and courtyard, which historians have described as the worst ever damage to Syrian heritage.
Norias of Hama, Syria
These 20-meter wide water wheels were first documented in the 5th century, representing an ingenious early irrigation system. Seventeen of the wooden norias (a machine for lifting water into an aqueduct) survived to present day and became Hama’s primary tourist attraction, noted for their groaning sounds as they turned. Heritage experts documented several wheels being burned by fighters in 2014.
Citadel of Aleppo, Syria
The fortress spans at least four millennia, from the days of Alexander the Great, through Roman, Mongol, and Ottoman rule. The site has barely changed since the 16th century and is one of Syria’s most popular World Heritage sites. The citadel has been used as an army base in recent fighting and several of its historic buildings have been destroyed.
Aleppo Souk, Syria
The covered markets in the Old City are a famous trade center for the region’s finest produce, with dedicated sub-souks for fabrics, food, or accessories. The tunnels became the scene of fierce fighting and many of the oldest are now damaged beyond recognition, which Unesco has described as a tragedy.
Deir Ez-zor bridge, Syria
This French-built suspension bridge was a popular pedestrian crossing and vantage point for its views of the Euphrates River. It became a key supply line in a battle for the city, and collapsed under shelling. Deir Ez-zor’s Siyasiyeh Bridge was also destroyed.
The ancient Assyrian city around Nineveh Province, Iraq was home to countless treasures of the empire, including statues, monuments and jewels. Following the 2003 invasion the site has been devastated by looting, with many of the stolen pieces finding homes in museums abroad.
Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
The Crusader castle from the 11th century survived centuries of battles and natural disasters, becoming a World Heritage site in 2006 along with the adjacent castle of Qal’at Salah El-Din. The walls were severely damaged by regime airstrikes and artillery in 2013, and rebels took positions within it.
Jonah’s Tomb, Iraq
The purported resting place of biblical prophet Jonah, along with a tooth believed to be from the whale that consumed him. The site dated to the 8th century BC, and was of great importance to Christian and Muslim faiths. It was entirely blown up by ISIS militants in 2014 as part of their campaign against perceived apostasy.
Khaled Ibn Walid Mosque, Syria
Among Syria’s most famous Ottoman-style mosques, which also shows Mamluk influence through its light and dark contrasts. The vast site became a hub of the battle for Homs, itself a front-line of the conflict. The sacred mausoleum has been completely destroyed, and much of the interiors burned.
An “oasis in the Syrian desert” according to UNESCO, this Aramaic city has stood since the second millennium BC and featured some of the most advanced architecture of the period. The site subsequently evolved through Greco-Roman and Persian periods, providing unique historic insight into those cultures. It is feared that Palmyra has now been devastated by looting.
Armenian genocide museum, Syria
Memorial site to the 1.5 million killed between 1915 and 1923, the Deir Ez-zor became a yearly destination for pilgrims from around the world. The site included a church, museum, and fire that burned continuously. The complex was destroyed by ISIS in 2014.
A key city for the Greeks and Romans, established in 630 BC. Famed as the basis for enduring myths and legends, such as that of the huntress heroine of the same name and bride of Apollo. The ruins were some of the best preserved from that period, but in the wake of Libya’s revolution, vast tracts have been bulldozed including its unique necropolis complex.
Museum of Islamic Art, Egypt
Home to one of the world’s most impressive collections, with over 100,000 pieces that cover the entirety of Islamic history. The Cairo site was first built in 1881, the museum recently underwent an eight-year multi-million dollar renovation. Shortly after re-opening, a car bomb targeting a nearby police building caused catastrophic damage and forced the museum to close again.
Quaid e Azam residency, Pakistan
This 121-year-old wooden building, humble but elegant, was home to the nation’s first governor general Muhammed Ali Jinnah for the last phase of his life. The residency was attacked with rocket fire by a separatist group in 2013, and almost completely demolished. A new structure is being built on the site.
Al- Omari Mosque, Gaza
Ancient monument in the heart of Jabalya’s old town dates back to the Mamluk Era. The walls, dome and roof were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes during the recent fighting in Gaza, along with dozens more historic sites.
‘Old Beirut’, Lebanon
A 15-year civil war of incredible brutality, successive battles with Israel, and sweeping urban development has robbed the ‘Paris of the Middle East’ of much of its visual lustre. Once known for its landscape of swaggering Ottoman, French and Art Deco architecture, officials say just 400 of 1200 protected historic buildings remain.
19 precious monuments destroyed by war
Are you there? Share images, if you can safely
So, too, have officials overseas such as British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Our hearts go out to all Israelis for the atrocity of this event and for all the reminders of history that go with it,” Kerry added. “This simply has no place in human behavior, and we need to hear from leaders who are going to lead their people to a different place” said Kerry, who called it ” an act of pure terror and senseless brutality and murder.”
The four killed were all rabbis: Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 58; Aryeh Kopinsky, 43; Moshe Twersky, 59; and Calman Levine. Goldberg was a dual British-Israeli citizen, and the other three were U.S.-Israeli citizens — which is why the FBI is investigating the attack, according to a U.S. law enforcement official.
As to their attackers, police said that they were from East Jerusalem, where Palestinians can move more freely about the city than those living in Gaza, who must pass through stringent checkpoints.
Whether this was part of a coordinated campaign or a spontaneous reprisal, Tuesday’s attack raises the specter of yet more violence against civilians.
The latest wave began with the kidnapping of three Israeli teens, who were later found dead. Reprisal attacks, rocket fire and retaliatory airstrikes followed that incident, with more than 2,000 Palestinians and 67 Israelis reportedly killed after weeks of heavy fighting.
Much of the most recent unrest has been centered around Jerusalem. That includes the discovery of the body of Palestinian bus driver Yousuf al-Ramouni on Sunday, the same day an Israeli was stabbed with a screwdriver near central Jerusalem.
‘There is no organization’
Last week, a 20-year-old was stabbed and killed in Tel Aviv, and three people were stabbed — one fatally — near the entrance to a settlement in the West Bank.
The incident took place at the same hitchhiking spot where three Israeli teens were kidnapped earlier this year; they were later killed.
Analysts point out that large-scale violence has decreased in Jerusalem in recent years, partly because of increased security but also because Palestinian and Israeli leaders are cooperating behind the scenes.
But former Israeli National Security Adviser Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror said the recent acts of violence may be more difficult to stop than in the past because they seem to be carried out by individuals and not planned out and executed by a group.
“There is no organization behind it,” he said, noting that all someone has to do is take a knife from their kitchen and attack. “… I don’t see any measures that can be taken to stop an individual (like that).”
Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, told CNN that incidents such as the “lynching” of the bus driver “have provoked the Palestinians to the point where many of them are retaliating individually by resorting to violence.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat — whose city is about two-thirds Jewish and one-third Arab — said attacks like the one at the synagogue are “not just an Israeli problem.”
“If the world doesn’t unite against terrorism and give zero excuses for terrorism, this will haunt he world,” he said. “This will happen everywhere in the world.”
CNN’s Greg Botelho and Ralph Ellis reported and wrote from Atlanta, while CNN’s Ben Wedeman reported from Jerusalem. CNN’s Michael Schwartz, Jethro Mullen, Rachel Kitchen, Shimon Prokupecz and Khushbu Shah contributed to this report.