At least 7 dead in Shabbat shooting attack on Jerusalem synagogue


This is a developing story.

(JTA) — A shooting attack on a synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Neve Yaakov killed at least seven people on Friday, a day after an Israeli raid on a West Bank city ignited vows of retaliation by Palestinian militant groups.

The attack took place Friday evening as worshipers left Shabbat services. A gunman was killed in a shootout with police, Israeli officials said, identifying him as a resident of eastern Jerusalem who was not Israeli.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Hamas and Islamic Jihad praised it as retaliation for the raid in Jenin, in which at least nine Palestinians were killed. Israel said the raid was meant to prevent a planned major attack.

Neve Yaakov is one of the neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem Israel built after it captured the area in the 1967 Six-Day War. It was constructed to expand the Jewish presence in the city’s eastern portions, although in recent years Palestinian Jerusalemites have rented apartments there. It is near the separation barrier between Jerusalem’s boundaries and the West Bank and near areas under Palestinian Authority control.

Several other people were wounded in the attack, according to the first-responder service Magen David Adom. Among those initially reported as hospitalized were a 70-year-old woman, a 20-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy. It was unclear if any of them were among the deaths that took place in hospitals.

The attack comes just days ahead of visits to the region by top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA chief Bill Burns. Burns’ trip was hastily planned in response to the raid in Jenin and the vows of retaliation, which threaten to ignite simmering tensions.

The Biden Administration is invested in keeping the Middle East quiet while it focuses its energies on assisting Ukraine in repelling Russia’s yearlong war on the country. The United States and Israeli militaries this week carried out a major joint military exercise widely seen as a signal to Iran, Israel’s deadliest enemy, that any major escalation would be met with massive military force.

This is the first major attack since the new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was sworn in last month. The government includes ministers who want to loosen the rules of engagement for Israeli police and to expand Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas.

One of them, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who oversees internal security, traveled to the scene of the shooting Friday night. In the past, when he was not a government minister, his visits to the scene of terrorist attacks often drew charges that he was seeking to heighten tension to achieve his political goals.

The shooting is the first major one on an Israeli synagogue since 2014, when five people, including four Jews at prayer and a security guard from Israel’s Druze minority, were killed in a synagogue shooting in the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof.