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. Israeli media reported that one of the shooters was “neutralized,” a euphemism for killed, but that there was a search in the area for two other attackers. Helicopters were flying over the area.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Hamas and Islamic Jihad did not take responsibility but praised the attack as retaliation for the raid in Jenin, in which at least 10 Palestinians were killed in an operation that Israel said was aimed at preventing a planned major attack. The dead attacker was a resident of eastern Jerusalem who was not Israeli, according to police.
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.
Kan, Israel’s government-run radio network, reported that several other people were wounded in the attack, quoting the first responder service Magen David Adom. Three were hospitalized, including a 70-year-old woman in critical condition, a 20-year-old man in serious condition and a 14-year-old boy with moderate injuries.
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.