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Terror in the Capital

Pools of blood are seen near a religious Jewish text at the scene of an attack at a Jerusalem synagogue in this handout picture released by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) November 18, 2014. REUTERS/Kobi Gideon

The wave of Arab terror against Israel’s citizens continued Tuesday morning, as two Palestinian assailants entered a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, killing four worshipers and wounding at least eight others. Zidan Saif, a police officer who was seriously injured in the Tuesday-morning terror attack, later succumbed to his wounds.

According to Israeli Police, two Palestinian terrorists entered the Kehilat Yaakov Synagogue at approximately 7:00 in the morning, armed with knives, axes, guns and meat cleavers. Three of the four murdered Jews were American Rabbis, the fourth Rabbi, a British citizen.

In the ensuing gun battle, the two perpetrators, cousins from the Jabal Mukaber neighborhood of East Jerusalem, were killed by Israeli police. The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that the cousins were among its members.

The deadliest incident in Jerusalem since a Palestinian assailant killed eight students at a Jewish seminar in March 2008, the attack is the latest in a string of terror incidents that claimed the lives of six Israelis over the past five week, fueled in part by the July murder of a Palestinian teenager as well as an ongoing dispute over Jerusalem’s holiest shrine. Whereas previous uprisings were marked by suicide bombings, galvanized by leaders and movements, the latest period of unrest has been characterized by lone wolf attacks, and is therefore more difficult to stop.

Domestic Response:

While the Israeli government has yet to fully detail its intended response to the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond to the attack “with a heavy hand.

For the first time in decades, Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered the deployment of checkpoints at the entrance to East Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods. The Prime Minister additionally instructed security forces to carry out raids on the homes of suspected terrorist in the city, approved the demolition of the homes of Tuesday’s attackers, and assigned the deployment of four extra parliamentary police battalions in Jerusalem. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch also broached the idea of easing restrictions on firearm possession among Jerusalem residents for the purpose of self-defense.

At a press conference in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu blamed the attack on “incitement” of violence by the militant group Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu, as well as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, called on Abbas to stop all instances of incitement. Speaking to the public, Netanyahu reiterated, “Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the PA are spreading false rumors, saying we are defiling the Temple Mount, that we plan to destroy holy sites – those are all lies.” The Prime Minister pledged to “step up enforcement and harshen the penalties” against anyone or any organization involved in incitement.

“The point is not which organization is behind the attack,” said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon. “This attack reflects a general state of mind in Palestinian society. The Palestinian Authority’s incitement to violence against Jews is irresponsible, and at the end of the day translates into actual acts of violence.” 

Palestinians celebrate the synagogue attack. Credit Adel Hana/Associated Press

An official statement from President Abbas condemned the attack, while his Fatah party’s official Facebook page celebrated its success. Continuing its practice of saying one thing to the world community and something else to its own people, the Palestinian Authority’s official TV channel showed images of Bethlehem residents handing out candy in the streets, in celebration of the attack.

International Reaction:

The brutal attack drew widespread international condemnation. Diplomats and world leaders from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia, labeled the attack “barbaric” and “horrific.” Former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, at the Vatican for an interfaith colloquium on marriage, led the assembled faith leaders in prayer for the victims. In a statement released by the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama, strongly condemned the day’s terror attack, saying, “There can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians.”

Most shocking has been the wholesale endorsement of the slaughter of the four innocent Israeli Rabbis. Palestinians in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria took to the streets Wednesday to celebrate the brutal murder. Demonstrators joined in the festivities by sharing sweets and baked goods, as well as launching firecrackers. Loudspeakers at mosques in the enclave congratulated the assailants.

Four of the five victims — Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 59; Aryeh Kupinsky, 40; Rabbi Calman Levine, 50; and Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 68 — were laid to rest Tuesday in Jerusalem. Prayer services are expected to resume today.


Sayde-Hope Crystal
Sayde-Hope Crystal was the Editor for the NATO Association of Canada’s Society, Culture and International Relations program. She is a CJPAC Fellow and works tirelessly to mobilize and engage Jewish and pro-Israel Canadians in the democratic process. Sayde-Hope is in the process of completing her final year as an International Studies student at York University’s bilingual Glendon College. Her written work focuses heavily on the regional dynamics of the Middle East. She can be reached via twitter: