In an unprompted and bloody terror attack this morning, at least two Arab-Israeli residents from East Jerusalem entered a synagogue during morning prayers wielding axes, knives and guns and began killing people while they prayed.
The attacks took place at a large synagogue on Harav Shimon Agasi Street in the Har Nof area in the early hours of the morning and was timed to take place while worshippers were in the midst of the silent morning prayer — and underneath their prayer shawls.
Four worshippers were killed and at least another eight wounded, some of them critically, with two police officers being among the wounded. The terrorists were killed following a gunfight with security forces, who arrived at the scene soon after the attacks.
Luba Samri, a police spokeswoman, told reporters, “Two terrorists entered the synagogue in the neighborhood of Har Nof. They attacked with an axe, a knife and a gun. Four worshipers were killed. The police who arrived at the scene shot and killed the two terrorists.”
One eyewitness who was at the synagogue when the attack took place told Israel’s Channel 2 about the incident.
“I tried to escape. The man with the knife approached me. There was a chair and table between us… my prayer shawl got caught. I left it there and escaped.”
When paramedic Zaki Heller showed up to treat the wounded, he described the scene.
“This is an area with a number of rooms. The wounded were scattered throughout different rooms and the paramedics who arrived at the scene dispersed to deliver first aid. The wounded were quickly evacuated by ambulance to hospital. It is definitely true to say that the images there — of casualties wearing prayer shawls — are very difficult.”
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who represents the Arabs of East Jerusalem, is being held directly responsible for the attack by many, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, due to a history of extreme incitement on his part, encouraging Arabs to kill Jews in response to the recent tensions on the Temple Mount.
On top of that, Palestinian state television recently aired a Holocaust revisionist documentary claiming that Jews were “evil” and that they had made so much trouble in Europe over the centuries that they deserved to be killed and expelled.
Meantime the terrorist network of Hamas in Gaza praised the attacks today, saying they were a response to “the ongoing Israeli crimes at al-Aqsa [mosque]. The Hamas organization calls for the continuation of acts of revenge.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised a “harsh response” but what form that will take is not known. Sky News reported that family members of the attackers have been arrested. Jeremy Bowen on BBC World News speculated that the response could take the form of demolition of the homes of the two Palestinians, a tight security crackdown on Palestinians in general, or — what is termed the “Zionist Response” — of expanding settlement activity.
There is little doubt that what was formerly a dispute about territory is morphing into a conflict with an accelerating religious dimension and possibly reflects the growing conflict between Islamic fundamentalism and the rest of the world.