NEW: Wounded Canadian-Israeli man in a coma, CTV reports
Two Palestinian cousins entered a Jerusalem synagogue with knives and a gun
Four worshipers and a policeman were killed; seven other people were wounded
Palestinian Authority President condemns the attack; Israeli PM says it's "not enough"
Jerusalem ramped up security after two Palestinian cousins wielding a gun and butcher knives attacked a synagogue during morning prayers, killing four worshipers and a police officer and wounding several others.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a strong reaction to Tuesday’s killings. He characterized the attack, which drew condemnation from around the world, as the result of a “blood libel” fanned by Palestinian leaders.
Even after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, Netanyahu said his response was “not enough.”
Addressing reporters Tuesday night, the Israeli Prime Minister called for national unity against “those human animals who committed this massacre” and against those – singling out Hamas and the Palestinian Authority – who he claimed “disseminate libels against the state of Israel.”
The terror attack – the deadliest in Jerusalem since 2008 – came at a particularly tense time in region. It follows recent deadly stabbings and vehicle attacks which, while not the same as the large-scale suicide bombings that defined last decade’s second intifada, have left Jerusalem on edge.
At the heart of the unrest is the holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem, known as the Temple Mount by Jews and Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) by Muslims.
Pope Francis condemned the attack and said he’s praying for the region.
“From the bottom of my heart, I appeal to all the parties involved to put an end to the spiral of hatred and violence, and to take courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace,” the Pope said. “To build peace is difficult but to live without it is torment.”
Photos taken after the attack Tuesday inside the synagogue in West Jerusalem’s Har Nof area, and released by Israeli officials, showed a grim scene. Lifeless bodies sprawled on the floor; a shattered pair of glasses; holy books, prayer shawls and walls soaked with blood.
The pictures did not relay the full scope of the brutality. “It was much worse,” Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.
Three dual U.S.-Israeli citizens and a British-Israeli citizen died in the attack before police shot and killed the two assailants. The four victims were all rabbis, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.
Hours after the attack, a policeman who was shot during the rampage while pulling a woman to safety died from his wounds, a hospital official said.
The four worshipers killed were Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 58; Aryeh Kupinsky, 43; Moshe Twersky, 59; and Kalman Levine, 55. Goldberg was a dual British-Israeli citizen, and the other three were U.S.-Israeli citizens.
“When four great men, wonderful men, wise in Torah study, are slaughtered while praying in public, there is no public grieving greater than that,” said a rabbi who eulogized the men later Tuesday, before their burial.
Seven others were wounded, including three who were seriously hurt, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
One of the wounded is a Canadian-Israeli dual citizen who was stabbed in his head, eyes and arms, CNN partner network CTV reported. Howard Rothman, 53, formerly of Toronto, was in a medically induced coma Tuesday, according to CTV.
“He was trying to fight off the attackers. He’s in a coma – he’s in critical condition,” Toby Trumpter-Kraman, a family friend, told CTV.
Order to demolish attackers’ homes
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat – whose city is about two-thirds Jewish and one-third Arab – said the synagogue attack was incited by Hamas and terrorist organizations who use “rumor and misfacts” about how Palestinians are treated in the city.
The Palestinian news agency Ma’an identified the two attackers as Ghassan Abu Jamal and his cousin, Udayy.
While no group claimed responsibility for the attack, Israeli officials say the attackers came from East Jerusalem, where Palestinians can move more freely about the city than those living in the West Bank and Gaza, who must pass through stringent checkpoints.
Israeli authorities moved into the attackers’ East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber to demolish their homes on Netanyahu’s order. The Palestinians’ official WAFA news agency reported 13 people were arrested.
Witnesses said that early Wednesday, Israeli security forces destroyed the home of a Palestinian man who drove his car into a light rail station last month, killing a baby.
Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman, said authorities were beefing up security around Jerusalem after Tuesday’s attack.
“We’ve got to make sure there are no copycat attacks,” Regev said. “We also want to make sure that there’s no hothead on the Israeli side who decides he wants to take the law into his own hands and conduct a vigilante counter attack.”
The U.S. consulate in Jerusalem warned Americans that disturbances in East Jerusalem were possible.
“While we cannot predict where and when attacks may take place, we have consistently seen a cycle of violence in East Jerusalem neighborhoods following incidents like the one today,” the consulate said Tuesday on its website.
Netanyahu accuses Palestinian leaders of ‘incitement’
Netanyahu accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting violence, although he hedged his words about its leader.
“(Abbas) does not send out terrorists, he doesn’t directly encourage acts of terror, and this is good,” Netanyahu said, echoing an assessment by an Israeli security chief. “On the other hand, the incitement of the Palestinian Authority – and he heads the Palestinian Authority – and even some things he says … encourage terrorism, in terms of incitement (of) tensions that run high.”
There was no such equivocation about Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza. It’s been at odds with Israel and also with Abbas’ Fatah movement, which controls the West Bank.
Hamas did not claim responsibility for the synagogue attack, though it didn’t back away from it either. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the group, instead linked the attack to the discovery Sunday of a Palestinian bus driver hanged in his bus not far from where Tuesday’s attack occurred.
Israeli authorities say the bus driver’s death was a suicide, but his family disputes that, claiming he was attacked.
Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad predicted to Al Jazeera International that “there will be more revolution in Jerusalem, and more uprising.”
“Hamas in general supports action against the occupation,” Hamad said. “Hamas supports any military action against the occupation anywhere it can be carried out.”
CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter reported and wrote from Atlanta; Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong; CNN’s Ben Wedeman reported from Jerusalem. CNN’s Greg Botehlo, Michael Schwartz, Kareem Khadder and Rachel Kitchen contributed to this report.