Three Americans were among four worshipers killed in a Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday by a pair of Palestinians wielding meat cleavers and a gun and shouting “Allahu Akbar” in a brutal attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “respond harshly.”
The Americans — identified as Aryeh Kupinsky, Kalmen Levin and Moshe Twersky — were killed along with a fourth person when the assailants, identified as cousins, stormed the building and began attacking people. Eight others were injured — one critically — before the attackers were killed in a shootout with police. The Times of Israel cited witnesses who said the attackers stormed the synagogue, in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighborhood in the western part of Jerusalem, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is Great,” and creating a horrific scene of bloody carnage.
“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,” a man who identified himself as Yossi, who was praying at the synagogue at the time of the attack, told Israeli Channel 2 TV. He declined to give his last name.
The attack was the deadliest in Israel’s capital since 2008, when a Palestinian gunman shot eight people in a religious seminary school.
Netanyahu vowed that Israel will “respond harshly” to the attack, which he denounced as a “cruel murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by despicable murderers.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he spoke to Netanyahu after the assault and denounced it as an “act of pure terror and senseless brutality and violence.”
Kerry blamed the attack on Palestinian calls for “days of rage,” and said Palestinian leaders must take serious steps to refrain from such incitement. He also urged Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack “in the most powerful terms.”
Hours after Kerry spoke, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, the first time he has done so since a recent spike in deadly violence against Israelis began. He also called for an end to Israeli “provocations” surrounding the sacred site.
In a statement, Abbas’ office said he “condemns the killing of the worshipers in a synagogue in west Jerusalem.” The statement called for an end to the “invasion” of the mosque at a contested holy site in the city and a halt to “incitement” by Israeli ministers. But Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip, praised the attack as retaliation for what it claimed was the murder of a Palestinian bus driver who was found hanged in his vehicle late Sunday. Israeli police, citing autopsy results, have classified the man’s death as a suicide, but that has not been accepted by the man’s family.