Violence after attack on Jerusalem synagogue

BY: Aljazeera and agencies
Israeli security forces at the scene of the Jerusalem terror attack, Nov. 18, 2014.Reuters

Fighting has broken out between Israeli police and Palestinians in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank following an attack on a synagogue in the west of the city in which four Israelis were killed by two Palestinian men.

The Palestinian attackers, who police said were armed with a gun and axes, were shot dead by police after gaining entrance to the Har Nof Synagogue on Tuesday.

Palestinian medical sources told Al Jazeera that at least 35 Palestinians were wounded in the confrontations between the Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem after the synagogue attack.

Sources said that 10 Palestinians were wounded in Al Ram, located in northeast Jerusalem, and 25 others were wounded in Sur Baher, south of the city.

There were also reports of confrontations in Ramallah, in the West Bank, as three Israeli military vehicles drove by the outskirts of the city. Minor confrontations were also reported at the illegal Psagot settlement, south of Ramallah.

In response to the synagogue attack, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned of a "harsh response," ordered the demolition of the homes of the two Palestinians who carried out the attack.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the killings while Hamas, the Palestinian faction that governs the Gaza Strip, said it was "a natural reaction to Israel's practices" against Palestinians.

'Stun grenades'

The assailants have been identified as Odai and Ghasan Abu Jamal, cousins from East Jerusalem.
The two men belong to the Palestinian group known as the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

A statement from the PFLP's armed wing welcomed the attack, but stopped short of taking responsibility for or directly organising it.

Police identified those killed inside the mosque as three Americans and a Briton, who all held dual Israeli citizenship.

The area has been cordoned off by police.

Later on Tuesday, Israeli police confirmed to Al Jazeera that a Palestinian man has been stabbed in the leg in the north of Jerusalem. Fadi Radwan was stabbed near al-Musrara and taken to the hospital.

Following the synagogue killings, Israeli police entered a predominantly Arab neighbourhood in Jerusalem to make arrests.
Some people threw stones at the police officers, who responded with tear gas.

Describing the confrontations, Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from West Jerusalem, said: "Israeli forces used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse protesters who threw stones at them.

"The confrontations in both Jerusalem and the West Bank underscore the tensions ongoing for months.

"The situation on the ground is tense, but it is getting very tense politically as well with sharp statements coming from both sides."

Al Jazeera’s Stephanie Dekker, reporting from the synagogue, said funerals were taking place and that one of the Israelis who died in the attack had already been buried.

"We are waiting for the other three bodies," she said, adding that Israeli crowds have been gathering around the area.

Months of tension

The latest violence came after months of tension between Israelis and Palestinians in the city, which is divided between a largely Arab east and a mostly Jewish west.

Late on Sunday, a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in the vehicle. Israeli police said he killed himself, but his family and colleagues believe he was killed by Jewish settlers.

At least six Israelis have been killed in a spate of other attacks over the past few weeks.

Israel raised the security threat across the country following the Tuesday's attack.

US President Barack Obama condemned the attack, calling on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to lower tensions and seek peace.

"I strongly condemn today's terrorist attack on worshipers at a synagogue in Jerusalem," Obama said in a statement.

"At this sensitive moment in Jerusalem, it is all the more important for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to work cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence, and seek a path forward towards peace."

Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, told Al Jazeera: "Everyone expected this to happen. Jerusalem is boiling.

"Yesterday, the Israeli forces demolished the houses of the Palestinians who attacked Israelis, but they never punish Israeli attackers. We are expecting more violence."

In recent weeks, Jerusalem has seen a number of confrontations, which have sometimes turned deadly, around the flashpoint al-Aqsa Mosque in the eastern side of the city.

Palestinians are angry at what they say are repeated attempts by right-wing Jews to extend their influence at the Muslim-run compound housing the mosque. The compound is also considered by Jews to be a holy site.

Palestinians also complain that Israeli forces impose restrictions on Muslim worshippers trying to pray there.

Credit: Aljazeera and agencies