Israeli Netanyahu vows ‘strong, swift and accurate’ response to synagogue attack | TBEN news
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday promised a “strong, swift and accurate” response to a deadly Palestinian shooting near a synagogue on the outskirts of Jerusalem, as the army deployed more troops into the occupied West Bank.
Seven people were killed in Friday’s attack and two others were injured in another shooting in the city on Saturday.
“We are not seeking escalation, but we are prepared for any scenario,” Netanyahu said as he convened his security cabinet, which he said would demand more gun permits for licensed citizens to defend against street attacks.
On Saturday, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy opened fire on a group of Israeli passers-by in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood lying beneath Jerusalem’s old city walls, injuring two before being shot and wounded by one of them.
The attacks came at the end of a month of growing confrontation and after an Israeli raid on the West Bank on Thursday that killed nine Palestinians, including seven gunmen, and cross-border fire between Israel and Gaza.
An Israeli military spokesman said an additional battalion had been sent to the West Bank for reinforcements.
However, there was no sign that Israel was preparing for a full-scale operation, and its brief cross-border exchanges with Gaza ended without casualties. On Monday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will arrive on a two-day visit to Israel and the West Bank, where fighting has been escalating for months.
Thursday’s raid was the deadliest in years in the West Bank, where Israel has stepped up operations since a string of deadly Palestinian street attacks in its cities last year.
At least 30 Palestinians – militants and civilians – have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of the month.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made no mention of the shootings in a statement released by the official Palestinian agency WAFA, blaming Israel for the escalation of violence.
Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which has limited administrative powers in the West Bank, has suspended security cooperation with Israel following the deadly Jenin raid.
Survivors speak of shootings in the synagogue
Friday’s attack outside a synagogue was the deadliest in the Jerusalem area since 2008. It took place in a neighborhood on land annexed to Jerusalem by Israel after its conquest in the 1967 Middle East War, which is not recognized internationally.
The shooter, Khaire Alkam, was a 21-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem. A 14-year-old boy was among the dead, police said. No group has claimed responsibility for the shooting and Alkam’s father told Reuters his son has no links to militants
Police said 42 people, including his relatives, were arrested. Netanyahu said he would also propose sanctions against families of attackers at the cabinet meeting.
Police said the gunman in Friday’s attack arrived at 8:15 p.m. and opened fire with a handgun, hitting several people before he was killed by police.
Shimon Israel, 56, who lives nearby, said his family had just started eating Sabbath when they heard gunshots and screams. He opened the window and saw his neighbor running into the street to call the police.
“I told him, ‘Eli, don’t go there. Eli don’t go.’ He just got married a year ago. A good neighbor, like a brother,” Israel told Reuters. ‘He ran. I saw him fall there.’
“Natali, his wife, ran after him. She saw someone here and tried to revive him. The terrorist came and shot her from behind and also grabbed her,” he said.
In Tel Aviv, tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrating against Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul Israel’s judiciary began the protest with a minute’s silence for the dead.
The gunman was a relative of a 17-year-old Palestinian man who was shot dead in clashes with Israeli forces at a refugee camp in Jerusalem on Wednesday, his family said.
His father, Moussa Alkam, said he didn’t know if his son was seeking revenge. “He is neither the first nor the last young man to be martyred and we are proud of what he has done,” Alkam said.
At a Jerusalem hospital treating victims, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said he would try to increase the number of gun permits.
“I want guns on the street. I want Israeli citizens to be able to protect themselves,” he said.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the pro-settler Religious Zionism party, said he would call for an acceleration of plans to build Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which his party hopes will eventually be annexed.
Both Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are members of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, but there has been no sign that he would heed their demands, some of which have been made in the past.
The shooting on Friday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, was condemned by the White House and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called for “extreme restraint”. It came days ahead of a planned visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel and the West Bank.
A Ukrainian was among the dead, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
Jordan and Egypt, Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel, also condemned the shooting, as did the United Arab Emirates, one of several Arab states that normalized relations with Israel just over two years ago.
Saudi Arabia, which has no formal ties to Israel, condemned the attack on civilians and said it was necessary to stop an escalation in violence.
Iran-backed group Hezbollah in Lebanon praised the attack and Hamas praised it in response to Thursday’s raid on Jenin, as did the smaller Islamic Jihad group.