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4 Israelis killed, 8 injured in Jerusalem synagogue attack

Last updated on: November 18, 2014 18:26 IST

In a brutal attack, two Palestinians wielding axes, knives and guns, on Tuesday killed at least four Israeli worshippers in a Jewish synagogue and a seminary and injured another eight, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to vow a "harsh response" to the murders.

"Two terrorists entered the synagogue in the neighbourhood of Har Nof. They attacked with an axe, a knife and a gun. Four worshippers were killed. The police who arrived at the scene shot and killed the two terrorists," Israel police spokesperson, Luba Samri, said.

The two attackers entered the site on Harav Shimon Agassi Street, which includes a synagogue and yeshiva (rabbinical seminary), and carried out attacks in more than one location, security sources said.

The wounded, including two police personnel, were taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Hadassah Ein Kerem. Four of them are in a serious condition.

"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," Yossi, who was praying at the synagogue at the time of the attack, said.

Images from the aftermath of the brutal attack showed prayer shawls lying on the floor in pools of blood.

"This is an area with a number of rooms," rescue services spokesman Zaki Heller said.

"The wounded were scattered throughout different rooms and the paramedics who arrived at the scene dispersed to deliver first aid. The wounded were quickly evacuated by ambulance to hospital," Heller added.

Netanyahu described the attack as a "cruel murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by despicable murderers".

The Israeli premier said the attack was the result of incitement by Hamas militants and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which the world had ignored.

His sentiments were echoed by Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz who said that "the terrorists wielded axes, but the voice was that of Mahmoud Abbas".

Palestinian sources named the attackers as Rassan and Uday Abu-Jamal, relatives from the Jabel Mukaber neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.

The Shehab news agency, which is connected to Hamas, quoted witnesses as saying that Israeli security forces had "started to surround Jabel Mukaber from all directions" in the wake of the attack.

Islamist Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, said that the attack was a response to the "the ongoing Israeli crimes at al-Aqsa (mosque) calling upon supporters to continue acts of revenge".

An official Hamas statement also said that the attack was a response to the death of bus driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, who was found hanged at a Jerusalem bus terminal on Sunday.

While al-Ramouni's family claimed foul play, autopsy reports suggested suicide.

Tensions in Jerusalem appeared to have subdued following a meeting in Amman between Netanyahu, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordan's King Abdullah II, but proved otherwise following the gruesome murders on Tuesday.

The meeting was an attempt to restore calm after months of violent confrontations surrounding the TempleMount, holy to both Jews and Muslims.

Israel and the Palestinian authorities had both said they would take steps to reduce tensions and prevent an escalation.

Netanyahu said last week that Israel had no intention of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, where a Muslim trust enforces the ban on Jewish prayer at the site.

Image: (Above) Israeli security personnel run next to a synagogue, where a suspected Palestinian attack took place, in Jerusalem. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/ Reuters

Image: An Israeli police officer gestures as he holds a weapon near the scene of an attack at a Jerusalem synagogue. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/ Reuters

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