JERUSALEM (JTA) — Four Israelis were killed in a terror attack during morning prayers at a Jerusalem synagogue.
Two Palestinian assailants entered a synagogue and rabbinical seminary in the Har Nof neighborhood of western Jerusalem and attacked worshippers at the morning prayer service with a gun, axes and knives.
At least eight worshippers also were injured, some seriously, in the Tuesday morning attack on the Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov synagogue. Three of those killed are dual American and Israeli citizens.
Police killed both of the assailants, who have been identified as residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. Police reportedly began searching the homes of the assailants after the attack. Palestinian reports say the assailants, who are cousins, are relatives of terrorists released in the exchange to return Gilad Shalit.
The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations praised the attack, and said it was in retaliation for the death of a Palestinian bus driver who was found late Sunday night hanged in his bus at a terminal in Jerusalem.
An autopsy Monday at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv found that the death was not criminally related, Israel Police said. The body was returned to the family. However, a Palestinian pathologist said in a separate report that there were signs of violence on his body, and the family said he was killed by “settlers.”
Hamas called for more such attacks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a security consultation for Tuesday afternoon following the attack.
He blamed the attack on “incitement led by Hamas and Abu Mazen” – the nom de guerre of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and blamed the international community for “irresponsibly ignoring” such incitement.
“We will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were met by reprehensible murderers,” Netanyahu said following the terror attack.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is London, called Netanyahu to offer his condolences. “This simply has no place in human behavior,” Kerry told reporters, and called for Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack.
“Jerusalem bows its head in pain and sorrow on this difficult morning. Jerusalem residents peacefully praying in a synagogue in the heart of Jerusalem were cruelly slaughtered in cold blood while wearing their prayer shawls,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement. “We will not surrender to terror. We will stand strong and defend our city from those who try to disturb the peace of our capital.”