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News >  Nation/World

Jerusalem shooting leaves 7 Israelis dead

Jan. 27, 2023 Updated Fri., Jan. 27, 2023 at 3:04 p.m.

By Gwen Ackerman Bloomberg News

A gunman shot to death seven Israelis in an attack on a synagogue in a Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem as tensions soared following the Thursday killing of nine Palestinians in a clash with Israeli security officials in the West Bank.

Police who raced to the scene shot and killed the assailant. Israeli media reported he was 21, from East Jerusalem and without a history of political violence.

It was one of the highest death tolls in an attack on Israelis in years and was bound to lead to exceptional outrage since the dead were worshippers leaving Sabbath prayers.

While no group claimed responsibility, in the Gaza Strip, the Islamic Hamas movement celebrated by firing into the air, and in the West Bank cars honked and fireworks were shot into the sky.

Fatah, the main branch of the Palestine Liberation Movement, said in a statement that the Palestinian people “are not helpless” and called the attack the “inevitable result” of the Israeli occupation’s latest actions.

Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was planning to call an emergency meeting with security officials.

The deteriorating situation will dominate U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to the country next week.

The Palestinian health ministry reported late Friday that an Israeli car approached the West Bank village of Bita, near Nablus, and shot three Palestinians, who were taken to hospital, one in serious condition.

The Thursday gunfight with Israeli soldiers in the city of Jenin left eight militants and one civilian dead. It was one of the highest daily death tolls in the West Bank in years and sparked retaliatory attacks from both sides. The violence adds to domestic tensions.

“The international community and the U.S. are watching Israel because of the new government,” said Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at Hebrew University, speaking of Netanyahu’s recently sworn-in Cabinet. “It’s a more extremist right-wing government than Israel has ever had.”

Netanyahu’s coalition took office a month ago after pledging to implement policies such as loosening open-fire rules for some security forces. The new administration, which includes far-right figures, has also proposed expanding or building more settlements in the West Bank, where Palestinians are seeking to establish an independent state.

Hamas, which runs Gaza, had warned that Israel would “pay the price for the massacre” in Jenin. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian government body, cut security ties with Israel, something he’s done in the past for brief periods.

“The situation is headed for a wider confrontation,” said Jehad Harb, a researcher at the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. End of security ties “will push the youth into more confrontation with the Israeli side.”

After the clash in Jenin, Palestinian militants fired a number of rockets — one hit an open area, one was intercepted and another fell inside Gaza. No one claimed responsibility. The Israeli air force hit back with strikes on rocket manufacturing sites in Gaza.

“The Palestinians hope that pressure will be exerted on the Israelis also by Blinken,” Harb said.

For Netanyahu’s government, the tension with Palestinians adds to social unrest. Tens of thousands of Israelis are expected to rally Saturday to protest an overhaul of the justice system that opponents view as undemocratic and a potential blow to the economy.

The Israeli army said the violence Thursday broke out as security forces entered the Jenin refugee camp to arrest members of Islamic Jihad, a Gaza-based militant group, who it said were planning multiple terror attacks including the shooting of soldiers and civilians.

Egypt, the United Nations, and Qatar are mediating in a bid to prevent an escalation, according to a statement from Islamic Jihad. The United Arab Emirates, which established diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020, condemned the Israeli raid.

Israeli fighter jets early Friday carried out a series of airstrikes on facilities belonging to militant groups in the Gaza Strip in response, including a Hamas underground manufacturing facility, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Overnight, the Israeli army said three rockets fired from Gaza were intercepted by air defenses, while another fell in a unpopulated area in southern Israel.

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