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Bloody Massacre at Jerusalem Synagogue; 5 Dead and 8 Wounded in Axe Wielding Rampage by Arab Terrorists

Bloody Massacre at Jerusalem Synagogue;  5 Dead and  8 Wounded in Axe Wielding Rampage by Arab Terrorists

As Arab hostilities towards Jews in Jerusalem continues unabated, the Jewish world was awakened to yet another heinous terrorist attack on Tuesday morning, November 18th when five people were brutally murdered during early morning prayers at a synagogue in the Har Nof section of the city.

As 25 worshippers gathered at the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue on Shimon Agassi Street in this devoutly Orthodox neighborhood for the morning shacharit prayers, two Palestinian cousins from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber burst in shouting “Allahu Akbar – God is great” and began arbitrarily attacking people; wielding knives, axes and a handgun.

Armed with meat cleavers, Ghassan Abu Jamal and Uday Abu Jamal started hacking away at worshippers and shot a dozen of those praying, leaving four rabbis dead and eight people injured, before being shot to death themselves by police in an exchange of gunfire near the entrance to the synagogue.

The five victims were Rabbi Moshe Twersky, hy'". Rosh Kollel of the Torat Moshe yeshiva; Rabbi Kalman Levine, hy"d; Aryeh Kupinsky, hy"d, Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, hy"d and Zidan Seyf, 27, a police officer from the Arab town of Yanuh-Jat, located in northern Israel, northeast of the city of Akko.

Police revealed that four of the victims were dual citizens, with three holding American citizenship, and the fourth British citizenship.

A US State Department spokesperson in London said  "we can confirm that three US citizens, Moshe Twersky, Aryeh Kupinsky and Cary William Levine, were killed in the attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem."

Goldberg held British citizenship, and a spokesman for the British Foreign Office in London confirmed to AFP: "we are aware of the death of a dual British-Israeli national in Israel on 18th November."

The attack was the deadliest in Israel's capital since 2008, when a Palestinian gunman shot eight people in a religious seminary school.

Kupinsky , 43, lost his 13-year-old daughter Chaya Hana two years ago. Goldberg, 68, made aliyah (immigration) to Israel in 1991, and leaves behind a wife and six children. Rabbi Levine, 50, leaves behind a wife and nine children, as well as five grandchildren.

Rabbi Twersky was born in the US and made aliyah in 1990 with his family and became the Rosh Kollel for the Torat Moshe yeshiva.  He leaves behind a wife, five children and ten grandchildren. Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, a prominent head of the Lithuanian hareidi community, eulogized the rabbi saying "he was a great and holy man. He was so close to G-d in his holy life and was murdered in the middle of his prayer, with the tefilin (phyllacteries) on his head."

The funeral services for Rabbi Levine, Mr. Kupinsky, and Mr. Goldberg began at 3 p.m. at the synagogue in which they were murdered, the Kehillat Bnai Torah Yeshiva Synagogue in Har Nof.

Thousands showed up for the funeral of the three, including President Reuven Rivlin.

Soon after the attack, clashes broke out outside the Abu Jamals' home, where dozens of police had converged. Residents hurled stones at police who responded using riot dispersal weapons.

Residents in the neighborhood, speaking on condition of anonymity for fears for their own safety, said 14 members of the Abu Jamal family were arrested.

Mohammed Zahaikeh, a social activist in Jabal Mukaber, said one of the relatives of the cousins, Jamal Abu Jamal, was released in a 2011 prisoner swap and re-arrested recently by Israeli police. He did not say why.

Jerusalem has seen a spate of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, most of which have involved cars being driven into pedestrians. At least six people had been killed in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and Tel Aviv prior to Tuesday.

Jerusalem residents have already been fearful of what appeared to be lone-wolf attacks, but Tuesday's early morning attack on a synagogue revives memories of the gruesome attacks during the Palestinian intifada of the last decade.

Israel's police chief said Tuesday's attack was likely not organized by militant groups, similar to other recent incidents, making it more difficult for security forces to prevent the violence.

"These are individuals that decide to do horrible acts. It's very hard to know ahead of time about every such incident," Yohanan Danino told reporters at the scene.

Hamas said the attack was motivated by revenge after a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his vehicle earlier in the week, and called for more violence.

But Israeli police believe Youssef al-Ramouni, 32, who was found dead at the start of his bus route on Sunday, committed suicide, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Moreover, tensions in the city have been exacerbated in recent months over persistent calls by Jewish residents for the establishment of rights to pray at Har HaBayit,  which is currently operated by the Jordanian Waqf.

The Jerusalem holy site is referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount because of the Jewish temples that stood there in biblical times. It is the most sacred place in Judaism; Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The site is so holy that Jews have traditionally refrained from going there, instead praying at the adjacent Western Wall. Israel's chief rabbis have urged people not to ascend to the area, but in recent years, a small but growing number of Jews have begun regularly visiting the site.

While the violence in Jerusalem in the last few weeks has occurred close to the dividing line between the occupied Palestinian east and mainly Jewish west, this attack in the heart of an orthodox and deeply observant neighborhood represented a clear departure.

President Obama responded to the attacks in Jerusalem by saying, "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. There is and can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians. The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the victims and families of all those who were killed and injured in this horrific attack and in other recent violence."

Russia also condemned the attack on Tuesday, with the Russian foreign ministry releasing a statement.

"We decisively and unambiguously condemn this terrorist act," the statement read, adding "killing peaceful citizens is an inhumane crime, whatever its motivations."

In a similar vein to Obama, Russia said "we call on Palestinians and Israelis to take urgent measures to rein in extremists, whose actions threaten to explode the situation entirely."

Despite the Arab terrorism engulfing Israel, Russia called on both sides to "renew the talks process...on the established basis of international law" and to "resolve all the questions on the status of the Palestinian Territories, including finding a mutually acceptable solution to the problem of Jerusalem."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to hold an emergency cabinet meeting later on Tuesday regarding the massacre.

In a statement to the media, Netanyahu said that he demands that the world stand with Israel’s “uncompromising” condemnation of “incitement against Israel.”

“I would like to see shock, I would like to see a condemnation, a real uprooting, not a compromise,” he intoned.

“The world watches this massacre but does not demand that Palestinians stop their incitement against Israel, which is the root of this violence. I expect to hear that very same condemnation, uncompromising,” he added.

“We uphold law, order and security throughout the streets of Jerusalem. I have decided to dismantle the homes of terrorists.. and to enforce law, to make punishments more severe, and to outlaw certain organizations.”

In a plea aimed at dissuading livid Israelis from even entertaining the notion of exacting vengeance in response to the barbaric attacks, Netanyahu said, “We will repay all those terrorists but nobody, nobody must take the law into their own hands even during a storm or when the blood boils. We need national unity at this time.”

"The shocking massacre in a Jerusalem synagogue this morning are the unfortunate sum of the Palestinian position: the more we toughen our stance and call for tensions to calm, the more the brutal incitement from the Palestinian Authority leadership continues and worsens," Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) stated. "Their dispatchers are not repulsed from murdering worshipers inside the synagogue sanctuary itself. They break records for depravity and cruelty."

"Israel should not be dealing with those who aim to massacre innocent people within our holy places," Edelstein fired.

"I send my condolences to the families of those killed and wish the injured a speedy recovery," he added.

Economics Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett also held PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the attack.

"Abbas, a leading terrorist who gave rise to the Palestinian people, was directly responsible for the blood of Jews spilled on their tallit and tefillin," Bennett stated. "While we dealt with fantasies about a political peace process, the Palestinians made us an interlocking terrorism and incitement network."

Magen David Adom paramedics who arrived at the scene initially encountered only one body - but the scope of the massacre soon became clear when they entered further into the building.

Eyewitnesses have told of the gruesome scene as the attack unfolded.

According to a report in the Guardian of London, local resident Sarah Abrahams said: “I was going for a morning walk and passing by on the road above the synagogue. The police were already there, and when one of the terrorists emerged from the synagogue they shot him on the steps … Two people came out with their faces half missing, looking like they’d been attacked with knives.”

A man who identified himself only as Yossi told Israel’s Channel 2 television: “The police arrived and surrounded the entrance and then the terrorist ran out and they shot him. There was wild gunfire. People ran out of the synagogue. It was hell. 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.”

Yosef Posternak, who was also praying in the synagogue at the time of the attack, told Israel Radio: “I looked up and saw someone shooting people at point-blank range. Then someone came in with what looked like a butcher’s knife and he went wild. I saw people lying on the floor, blood everywhere. People were trying to fight with them but they didn’t have much of a chance.”

The police on the scene were transport officers who engaged the attackers in a short gun battle. One of the officers was seriously wounded in the exchange.

Speaking to Ynet News, one of the officers involved, a police forensics officer who arrived at the scene, described the final few moments of the attackt: “I saw a policeman with gunshot wounds and two terrorists with kitchen knives, covered in blood and holding a gun, running towards us,” said the superintendent, who was not identified. “I fired at them until they were neutralized.”

Yakov Cohen, a 60-year-old pensioner who lives in an apartment block opposite the synagogue, described witnessing the attack and its conclusion.

“I was getting ready to go down and pray myself. My wife had gone out for a walk. She called to tell me there was shooting and to stay at home. I saw armed police at the door of the synagogue and then heard one of them shout: ‘He’s getting ready to come out.’ An Arab came out of the building, a man in his 30s. The police shot him as he came out.”

Meanwhile, it has been widely reported that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and in Judea and Samaria celebrated Tuesday’s attack. In the Rafah region near Gaza, local residents engaged in revelry as they passed out candies, brandished axes and posters of the perpetrators in high praise of the deadly attacks.

Palestinian radio stations described the murderers as "martyrs" while Hamas publicly praised the attack. Loudspeakers at mosques in Gaza called out congratulations. However, there was no direct claim of responsibility.

"Hamas calls for the continuation of revenge operations and stresses that the Israeli occupation bears responsibility for tension in Jerusalem," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

A virtual litany of elected officials and organizations in the United States also expressed their outrage and anger over the ghoulish murders. U.S Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) released a statement to the media about Tuesday’s attack: “These outrageous murders are caused by the reckless incitement, not only of Hamas, but of Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority; they are co-conspirators in the murder of these four religious teachers and rabbis. Their dishonest inciting of Palestinians is resulting in the death of innocent people, and it must stop. While Mr. Abbas has condemned this appalling act of hate, he must take immediate action to de-escalate the dangerous polarization.”

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America said:   “We absolutely condemn — and call upon all people of good will to condemn — this heinous attack against the “Kehilat Yaakov” synagogue in Har Nof. Targeting innocent civilians during their morning prayers reflects a complete and utter disregard for the sanctity of life and religion. By desecrating and violating one synagogue, these terrorists have desecrated and violated all synagogues; indeed every place of worship.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder issued a statement that said, “Our hearts go out to the victims of this heinous crime and to their families.” Lauder said the bloodbath in the Kehilat Bnei Torah Synagogue in Har Nof was “obviously the result of an orchestrated campaign by Palestinian groups whose sole aim is to incite to hatred against Jews.”

New York State Senate leader Dean Skelos R-NY said: “The horrendous terror attack today at a synagogue in Jerusalem should be condemned around the world.  This despicable action by cowardly terrorists cannot and should not be tolerated.  I have seen the threats Israelis face first-hand, and I know their strength will help them overcome these attacks on their people and faith.  It is more important than ever that New Yorkers stand with our friends in Israel and support them in this time of great sadness.”

“We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those killed in Jerusalem this morning and pray for the injured. The spilling of our people’s blood in synagogues is reminiscent of the darkest days in our history — and we call on all people of good will around the world to join with us in condemning these brutal and horrific acts of terror. We mourn the loss of life and pray for the end of bloodshed,” said Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York.

Rep Michael Grimm (NY-11) who was recently re-elected to his congressional seat represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. As the co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, he issued a statement saying, “This vicious rampage against peaceful worshippers once again shows the true depth of Hamas’ savagery and the threats facing our Israeli allies and Jewish Americans abroad. Now more than ever, the Israeli people deserve to know that they have our full, unwavering support in combating these horrific attacks on their very way of life.” Rep. Grimm concluded, “I pray for these victims and their grieving families, especially for our fellow Americans brutally murdered in the attack, and look forward to swift justice to all terrorists seeking to harm innocent Jewish lives.”

Barry Curtiss-Lusher, National Chair of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director said, “We are horrified and outraged at this attack targeting Jews at prayer in Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned this brutal attack after weeks of silence and failure to address the hateful incitement running rampant through Palestinian society.  His half-hearted statement is woefully inadequate.  Had Mr. Abbas spoken out against earlier terror attacks, lives may have been saved. We extend our solidarity with the State of Israel and the residents of Jerusalem at this difficult time.”

 

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