Gunman Kills 7 People in Occupied East Jerusalem Synagogue Attack

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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — A gunman has killed seven people near a synagogue in an Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem before being fatally shot, in an escalation of violence following a deadly Israeli military raid in the West Bank a day earlier.

The incident happened in the city’s Neve Yaakov neighbourhood at about 20:15 local time (18:15 GMT).

After Friday’s shooting, the Magen David Adom emergency service confirmed that seven people were dead, five of them men and two women, while hospitals were still treating three wounded, one in critical condition.

“What we understand happened was a car pulled up at the front of a synagogue, a gunman got out and opened fire,” Al Jazeera’s James Bays reported from the scene of the attack in the illegal Israeli settlement of Neve Yaakov.

“The figures we have now are seven people dead,” said Bays, adding that police said the suspect had no previous “security record”.

The emergency response agency reported a total of 10 gunshot victims, including a 60-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy.

TV footage showed several victims lying on the road outside the synagogue being tended to by emergency workers.

“I heard a lot of bullets,” Matanel Almalem, an 18-year-old student who lives near the synagogue, told the AFP news agency.

An earlier police statement said there was a “terror attack in a synagogue in Jerusalem” and that “the shooting terrorist was neutralised [killed]”.

Police later said the suspect was a 21-year-old resident of East Jerusalem who appeared to have acted alone in carrying out the attack in an area that Israel annexed to Jerusalem after the 1967 Middle East war.

It said he had tried to flee by car but was pursued by police and shot dead.

The attack comes a day after a deadly Israeli raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. Nine Palestinians were killed, including an elderly woman, after dozens of Israeli soldiers attacked a house the army said contained suspected fighters, leading to several hours of intense confrontations.

A 22-year-old Palestinian man also was shot by Israeli forces in the town of al-Ram, north of Jerusalem, on Thursday.

In a sign of the potential for further escalation, the Palestinian health ministry said three Palestinians were taken to hospital after being shot by an Israeli settler in an incident near the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

It added that a 16-year-old Palestinian who was shot by Israeli forces in a separate incident on Wednesday succumbed to his wounds.

Gaza fighters then fired rockets and Israel carried out air raids overnight, but the exchange was limited.

‘A natural response’

Hazem Qassem, a spokesperson for Hamas, the Palestinian faction that controls the Gaza Strip, told the Reuters news agency that Friday’s attack was “a response to the crime conducted by the occupation in Jenin and a natural response to the occupation’s criminal actions”.

Qassam did not claim the shooting. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad also praised but did not take responsibility for the attack.

Israeli military raids in the occupied West Bank have become an almost daily occurrence over the last year with at least 200 Palestinians — fighters and civilians — killed. Israeli civilians and troops also have been killed in attacks by Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territory.

Friday’s shooting came just hours after Palestinians marched in anger as they buried the last of those killed by Israeli troops the previous day.

Scuffles between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters erupted in the occupied West Bank throughout the day, including after the funeral for the 22-year-old killed north of Jerusalem.

Crowds of Palestinians waved the flags of both Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas. In the streets of al-Ram, masked Palestinians threw stones and set off fireworks at Israeli police who responded with tear gas.

The escalation of violence also comes just days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit Israel and the occupied West Bank.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the horrific terrorist attack,” Blinken said in a statement.

“We are in close contact with our Israeli partners and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

Netanyahu to convene security cabinet

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the scene soon after the East Jerusalem attack. “We need to react, the situation cannot go on like this,” he said.

Speaking to reporters at Israel’s national police headquarters, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had held a security assessment and decided on “immediate actions”.

He said he would convene his security cabinet on Saturday night, after the end of the Sabbath, to discuss a further response. Netanyahu declined to elaborate but said Israel would act with “determination and composure”.

He also called on the public not to take the law into their own hands.

US President Joe Biden held a call with the Israeli prime minister on Friday night in which he called the killings an “attack against the civilised world” and offered support to Israel. Biden also “stressed the iron-clad US commitment to Israel’s security”, the White House said in a statement.

The shooting was the deadliest for Israelis since a 2008 attack killed eight people in a Jewish seminary, according to Israel’s foreign ministry.

Before Friday’s shooting, at least 30 Palestinians had been killed so far this year and the Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing powers in the West Bank, said it was suspending a security cooperation arrangement with Israel.

Months of violence in the occupied West Bank have heightened concerns the already unpredictable conflict may spiral out of control, triggering broader violence by Israel.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller skirmishes on Gaza since Hamas took power in the besieged coastal enclave in 2007. Tensions have soared since Israel stepped up raids in the occupied West Bank last March.

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C. Al Jazeera and News Agencies

Cover photo: Israeli emergency service personnel and security forces stand near a covered body at the site of a reported attack in Jerusalem on Friday. — AFP/Getty Images

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