02:00 - Source: CNN
Terror attack on Jerusalem synagogue

Story highlights

Obama urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reject violence

NEW Obama said Kerry spoke with Netanyahu on Tuesday after the attacks

Three of the four victims were dual U.S.-Israeli citizens; FBI will investigate

Kerry joined in condemning the attack as an "act of pure terror"

(CNN) —  

President Barack Obama condemned on Tuesday the attack on a Jerusalem synagogue that killed four Israelis as a “horrific” terror attack and urged Israelis and Palestinians to work together to ease tensions.

Obama said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of the attacks that killed three Americans when two Palestinians wielding knives, axes and a gun attacked the synagogue during morning prayers on Tuesday.

Obama also identified the attack’s three American-Israeli victims as Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William Levine and Mosheh Twersky.

“We condemn in the strongest terms these attacks,” Obama said. “The murders for today’s outrageous acts represent the kind of extremism that threatens to bring all of the Middle East into the kind of spiral from which it’s very difficult to emerge and we know how this violence can get worse over time.”

But Obama also stressed that “a majority of Israelis and Palestinians overwhelmingly want peace” and urged leaders on both sides to work together to ease tensions that have flamed in recent weeks over access to the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa mosque that sparked a series of attacks on Israelis and recriminations by some against Palestinians.

Netanyahu on Tuesday also responded to the attack, ordering the demolition of the homes of the two Palestinian assailants, both of whom were shot dead at the scene by Israeli police.

The decision came after a high-level security meeting between Netanyahu and his top security advisers as Netanyahu said Israel would “respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were met by reprehensible murderers.”

A member of the PLO executive committee would not outright condemn the attack, instead pointing to “the continuing escalation by the Israeli occupation and the targeting of Palestinian civilians” as provocation that led to the attacks, though she did note that she doesn’t “think violence is justified or can produce any results.”

Kerry reacted to the news while in London, calling the attack “an act of pure terror.”

“Our hearts go out to all Israelis for the atrocity of this event and for all the reminders of history that go with it,” Kerry said. “This simply has no place in human behavior and we need to hear from leaders who are going to lead their people to a different place.”

Israeli spokesman Micky Rosenfeld later told CNN that three of the men killed in the attack held dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship. The fourth victim was a dual British-Israeli citizen.

FBI is launching an investigation into the attack because three of the victims are U.S. citizens, a law enforcement official said.

Meanwhile, Hamas did not claim responsibility for the attack but a senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told Al Jazeera International “there will be more revolution in Jerusalem, and more uprising,” stating that Hamas “supports action against the occupation.”