TIME Israel

Israel to Destroy Homes of Synagogue Attackers

(JERUSALEM) — The family of two Palestinian assailants who carried out a deadly assault on a Jerusalem synagogue this week says police have ordered the demolition of their homes.

Said Abu Jamal, a cousin of the men, said their families in east Jerusalem received demolition orders from Israeli police on Thursday.

Police say Ghassan and Oday Abu Jamal burst into a crowded synagogue on Tuesday morning, killing four worshippers and a Druze Arab policeman with meat cleavers and gunfire before they were shot dead.

It was the bloodiest attack in a recent wave of violence by Palestinian assailants that has killed 11 people.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered authorities to destroy the homes of the attackers’ families — a punitive measure that has drawn criticism in the past.

TIME Israel

Israel Demolishes East Jerusalem Home of Palestinian Behind Car Attack

Abdelrahman Al-Shaludi killed two in the October attack

Israeli security forces have destroyed the home of a Palestinian man who carried out a car attack in October that left two people dead and several injured, the military said Tuesday.

The demolition came soon after Israeli Primer Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to win a “battle for Jerusalem” after an attack on a synagogue left five dead. Tension over a disputed holy site and repercussions from the 50-day conflict in the Gaza Strip over the summer have contributed to growing unrest in Jerusalem in recent weeks.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed in a statement that the IDF and police forces had demolished the home Abdelrahman Al-Shaludi, a resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, who authorities say killed a baby girl and a young woman when he rammed his car into a light rail station on Oct. 22. Al-Shaludi was shot by officers at the scene and died of his wounds soon after.

MORE: Chaos and mourning in Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Speaking on Tuesday evening, Netanyahu vowed to “settle the score with every terrorist” and said he had also “ordered the destruction of the homes of the Palestinians who carried out [Tuesday's] massacre and to speed up the demolitions of those who carried out previous attacks,” BBC reports.

Israel halted its controversial policy of demolishing the homes of militants in 2005 after a review committee found it did not act as an effective deterrent, but Netanyahu revived the practice this year.

TIME Middle East

Jerusalem’s Fragile Peace Splintered by Bloody Attacks

Israeli security personnel run next to a synagogue, where a suspected Palestinian attack took place, in Jerusalem, Nov. 18, 2014.
Israeli security personnel run next to a synagogue, where a suspected Palestinian attack took place, in Jerusalem on Nov. 18, 2014. Ronen Zvulun—Reuters

The killings of 5 people by 2 Palestinians in Jerusalem has driven a wedge between Arabs and Jews in the uneasily divided city

David Ehrlich, an Israeli writer, has been running a popular literary café and restaurant in downtown Jerusalem for the last 20 years. Popular, that is, except for times like these, when the city is so on edge that people tend to rush home from work and huddle with their families around the television.

“There are hardly any tourists, people from the Tel Aviv area will not come to Jerusalem, and the Jerusalemites just don’t feel like it,” says Ehrlich, whose latest short story collection is entitled Who Will Die Last: Stories of Life in Israel. He has employed Palestinians in the café almost since he founded it, making his eatery, Tmol Shilshom, one of countless examples in the holy city of Jews and Arabs working side by side.

“We’ve had Jews and Arabs work together for many years, and I’ve always been proud of it. I feel it’s the right thing in Jerusalem, because we are a mixed city. I don’t believe in segregation anywhere, and definitely not in my city,” Erlich tells TIME. “It doesn’t make sense to me that we’ll live so close by and pretend that the other doesn’t exist.”

But this de facto, often friendly coexistence can mask how very differently Israelis and Palestinians perceive reality. On Monday, the day before five people were killed in a bloody attack on a West Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinians from East Jerusalem, two of Ehrlich’s employees showed him some cell phone images of the body of Yousef al-Ramouni, a Palestinian bus driver whose death is a subject of controversy. To Ehrlich, the mark across the man’s neck made it seem believable that he had hung himself, as Israeli forensic officials ruled. But in the eyes of Ehrlich’s workers, it clearly looked like a murder.

“When horrible things happen, they feel empathy for me and I feel it for them,” Ehrlich explains. “On the other hand, they listen to their news and I listen to mine, and their understanding and reading of events is very, very different.”

The synagogue massacre—the latest in a series of attacks linked to the feud over the Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary — has already been dubbed by some in the Israeli and Palestinian media the “Jerusalem Intifada” and by others, the “Jerusalem War.” Some added that it seemed to be taking inspiration from the Islamic State, given the use of knives and an ax in Tuesday’s attack. Many though not all of the Palestinian attacks on Israelis over the last month have been in Jerusalem, and the perpetrators have all come from Jerusalem.

That stands in stark contrast to the Second Intifada, or uprising, from 2000 to 2004, which largely involved suicide bombers from the West Bank. Now, Israelis are finding that they are facing violence that comes from within Jerusalem’s self-declared municipal boundaries – not from beyond the wall or separation barrier built to stop the aforementioned suicide bombers from entering Israel.

This is having a chilling effect on this ordinarily open city. Zakaria al-Qaq, a Palestinian expert in national security at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, says that tens of thousands of Palestinians who work, shop and get various services in West Jerusalem are finding that the city is developing invisible boundaries that are becoming dangerous to cross.

“There is more of a gap now between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem,” he says. “The Arabs who work in West Jerusalem will come under a lot of suspicion, and I can foresee how the response to their presence there will be more negative than ever. There’s no confidence in each other, no trust, and it’s leading us to a more serious conflict.”

The groundswell of terror has been exacerbated by the absence of Palestinian leaders in East Jerusalem, Al Qaq says. Although the 1993 Oslo Accords stipulated that East Jerusalemites could vote in elections for the Palestinian Authority, Israel later deemed PA offices or those connected to its ruling political party, the Fatah faction of the PLO, as an infringement on Israeli sovereignty in the city. Orient House, an East Jerusalem building that served as a PLO headquarters through the 1980s and 90s, was shuttered by Israel’s then-premier Ariel Sharon in 2001 following a suicide bombing which killed 15 people.

“We don’t have leaders we can call on in East Jerusalem to try to calm the situation down, and the leaders in Ramallah have no influence on the Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” Al Qaq says. “What we’re seeing is young people doing it themselves, and not taking orders from anyone.”

Officials in Jerusalem have cautioned Israelis to treat their Palestinian neighbors with suspicion. Maj.-Gen. (Ret.) Dan Ronen, the former head of Israeli Police Operations Division during the Second Intifada, suggested Tuesday that the best way to foil potential attacks was to be cautious of “Arab employees and other people who come from East Jerusalem,” adding, “You never know when and how they can do something.” He also suggested that Israel would train those citizens who are armed to be better equipped to use their weapons in an attack. Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, said Tuesday he was encouraging Jerusalemites to join a civilian guard, reviving volunteer patrol units that were important in the state’s early days.

Given this situation, its perhaps not surprising that Taha, a cab driver from East Jerusalem, has been avoiding West Jerusalem in the last few days. “We are afraid to send our kids to school tomorrow, because we hear that settlers want to do marches and revenge attacks. I’m 53 years old, it’s the first time I’m really worried,” said Taha, who asked that his name be withheld due to security concerns. “In the last week, four people got to my taxi and got out as soon as they saw my name is an Arab name. They say things like, oh, I think I made a mistake, this is not the taxi I ordered, and they jump out. When it happens I cannot talk, because I feel very sad.”

Sara Kalker, a mother of two young children, is also unsure of whether to take her kids to school on Wednesday. Their pre-schools are on the edge of the Armon Hanetsiv neighborhood, which is over the Green Line (Israel’s pre-1967 borders) and abuts the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabel Mukabar, where the two young Palestinian cousins responsible for Tuesday’s synagogue attack were from.

“Everyone is concerned that something could happen anywhere, but we really feel it here. There are border police all over our neighborhood now. It’s hard to concentrate at work,” says Kalker. She moved here from New York State, where she grew up, weeks before the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000. “I got through that, but it’s definitely different being a mother and having to worry now about someone’s security other than my own.” She pauses. “I just want to feel safe. But I don’t really have faith in the ability of the country to solve these problems.”

TIME Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Netanyahu Slams Hamas, Palestinian Leadership After Jerusalem Synagogue Attack

Four rabbis were killed early Tuesday

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the Palestinian Authority and militant group Hamas for spreading “hatred and incitement” against Jews in a news conference Tuesday, hours after assailants burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four people.

Authorities said two Palestinian men armed with a gun, knives and axes entered a synagogue in West Jerusalem early on Tuesday and committed the most serious attack yet after weeks of clashes around the Temple Mount, also known as the Noble Sanctuary. The four victims were Rabbis; three were dual U.S. citizens and the fourth was British. Eight others were wounded.

Netanyahu singled out Hamas for blame, accusing the group’s leaders of inflaming tensions by libeling Israel “every hour, constantly, through the schools, in the media, in the mosques.”

He also condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who had earlier spoken out against Tuesday’s attack, for proceeding to “connect it to all sorts of imaginary events that ostensibly Israel performs at the Temple Mount which does not take place.” The perpetrators’ homes, Netanyahu vowed, would be demolished.

MORE: Fears of Religious Conflict After Synagogue Killings

TIME Israel

Chaos and Mourning in Jerusalem After Synagogue Attack

Two Palestinian assailants kill 4 at a synagogue

Two Palestinians from East Jerusalem burst into a West Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday morning, killing four people and wounding several others. Three American-Israeli dual-citizens were identified among the victims. This latest attack is being viewed by both sides as a potential turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

TIME Middle East

Fears of Religious Conflict After Synagogue Killings

Israel Palestine Jerusalem Attack
Ultra-orthodox Jewish men look on at the scene of an attack on Israeli worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem on Nov. 18, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

The dead include three American citizens, one British citizen and one Israeli police officer

Two Palestinians from East Jerusalem burst into a West Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday morning, killing five Israelis and wounding seven others with knives and axes in an attack that is being viewed by both sides as a potential turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That conflict, simmering since the end of a seven-week long war this summer between Israel and Islamist militants in Gaza, has reached boiling point in recent weeks. There have been a string of Palestinian stabbing attacks targeting Israelis so far this month, resulting in the deaths of four Israelis. Palestinians accuse Israel of ratcheting up tensions around Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary, an area sacred to both Jews and Muslims, and say the building of Israeli homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has provoked Palestinian ire.

But Tuesday’s attack in a crowded synagogue where worshippers has just begun their morning prayers is the most serious attack in recent weeks. Both Israelis and Palestinians noted the choice of target and the skyrocketing tensions over Jerusalem’s holy sites – the Temple Mount or Noble Sanctuary houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and has the Western Wall at its base. Many expressed concerns that this may be morphing into a religious war more than a struggle over land.

“We don’t want to see ourselves as Jews as being in a war with Islam – a religious war would be a disaster from every perspective,” said Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, in comments to reporters, broadcast live as the news was unfolding. “We have a long-standing dispute between Jews and Arabs, between Israelis and Palestinians, but we must not allow this to be twisted into a war between religions.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack but also demanded “an end to the ongoing incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the provocative acts by Israeli settlers as well as incitement by some Israeli ministers.” Rivlin applauded Abbas’ condemnation but said he was not doing enough, adding, “We’re hearing imams who are using every opportunity to incite against Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had harsher criticism for the Palestinian leader, saying that the attack was a direct result of incitement by Hamas as well as by Abbas. Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took it a step further and accused Abbas of deliberately trying to turn the conflict into a religious war between Muslims and Jews. Abbas recently characterized Jews as having desecrated the Temple Mount, which Lieberman said legitimizes attacks like the one on Tuesday.

Zakaria al-Qaq, a lecturer in national security at Al-Quds University which has campuses in Jerusalem and in the West Bank, said he was concerned that the atmosphere in the region – including the rise of the Islamic State in various enclaves in Iraq and Syria – was pushing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to take on a more religious hue.

“I’m afraid that today’s events will be a sort of turning point in terms of dragging the conflict towards having a different label on it, and it will look more like a religious conflict,” says Al-Qaq. Even though reports surfaced Tuesday that the attack may have been carried out by the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a secular nationalist group, al-Qaq said people were already drawing their conclusions about what this new stage of the conflict would look like. It would not necessarily be a third Intifada, or uprising, as some have predicted, but an unprecedented religious war.

“Regardless of whether the perpetrators are secular or religious, they have decided to use a place of prayer to inflame the religious identity of the conflict, moving it from Palestinian-Israeli to Muslim-Jewish,” Al-Qaq says. “If there will be any retaliation from any side, even just a radical group of Israelis who decide to attack a mosque that will inflame the situation very seriously. If you put it in the regional context, looking at Sunni vs. Shia tensions and the rise of ISIS, and just days ago in northern Israel, a riot pitting Muslims against Druze, we see that this is how the ball is rolling now – everything being dictated by religion.”

Receiving the first reports of the attack around 7 a.m., police rushed to the scene and shot dead the two Palestinians, who were from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. Chaim Weingarten, a volunteer for ZAKA, an Israeli organization that arranges for religious burial following terrorist attacks, said he felt it as if “ISIS has arrived in Jerusalem.” He explained what he saw in comments provided to the media by ZAKA: “This was an extremely difficult scene. The terrorists used live fire and a butcher’s knife. The terrorists cut off the arm of a worshiper wearing tefillin (phylacteries). Horrific images that leave me with very difficult emotions.”

Israeli police said that three of the dead were originally from the U.S. and one was from Britain. An Israeli police officer died from his injuries hours after the attack, bringing the death toll to five, a spokeswoman at Hadassah hospital told CNN. Among the victims of the attack is an Israeli-American rabbi, Moshe Twersky, 59. He was the head an English-speaking seminary, or yeshiva, and is the son of a renowned rabbi and Harvard professor, Rabbi Yitzhak (Isadore) Twersky of Boston, and well as the grandson of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, one of the founders of Jewish Modern Orthodoxy.

Tuesday’s attack came after a Palestinian bus driver, Yusuf Hasan al-Ramuni, was found hanging in his bus on Sunday. Israeli forensic officials ruled it was a suicide and said there was no evidence of foul play, but Palestinians believe it was a murder staged to look like a suicide, and held protests on Monday in response.

Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said in a BBC interview that attacks like Tuesday’s should be anticipated.

“Everyone expected that this would happen,” Hamad said. “Every day Jerusalem is boiling, every day there is a new crime against a Palestinian citizen. We didn’t see any effort of the Israeli government to stop the settlers from attacking the al-Aqsa mosque. They should open their eyes and see there is a revolution in Jerusalem, there is an uprising.”

In the aftermath of the killings, Israeli media reported clashes between Palestinian and police near the East Jerusalem homes of the two alleged attackers.

TIME Israel

At Least Four Killed in Terror Attack on Jerusalem Synagogue

Israel Jerusalem Palestine Synagogue Attack
Israeli emergency personnel take the body of an Israeli man out of a synagogue after a terror attack in the neighborhood of Har Nof, western Jerusalem on Nov. 18, 2014. Ilia Yefimovich—Getty Images

At least three victims were American-Israeli citizens

At least four people, including three American-Israeli dual-citizens, were killed at a Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday, authorities said.

The attack, which occurred at 7 a.m., was carried out by two Palestinian assailants armed with knives and axes, in the Orthodox community of Har Nof, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told CNN. Police shot and killed both of them, he added. One police officer was injured and remains in critical condition.

The attack is reported to be the deadliest attack against civilians in Israel in several years. All four of the confirmed dead were rabbis, including 59-year-old Moshe Twersky, the New York Times reports.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were met by reprehensible murderers.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Palestinian leadership to condemn the attack. “They must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path,” he said.

TIME Israel

4 Israelis Killed in Jerusalem Synagogue Attack

Two Palestinian assailants stormed a synagogue attacked worshippers with knives, axes and guns

Updated: Nov. 18, 2014, 4:47, a.m. E.T.

(JERUSALEM) — Two Palestinians stormed a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday, attacking worshippers praying inside with knives, axes and guns, and killing four people before they were killed in a shootout with police, officials said.

The attack, the deadliest in Jerusalem in years, is bound to ratchet up fears of sustained violence in the city, already on edge amid soaring tensions over a contested holy site.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel will “respond harshly” to the attack, describing it as a “cruel murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by despicable murderers.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he spoke to Netanyahu after the assault and denounced it as an “act of pure terror and senseless brutality and violence.”

Israeli police called it a terrorist attack and said the two Palestinian assailants were cousins from east Jerusalem. It was not immediately known if they were affiliated with any group. Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that runs the Gaza Strip, praised the attack but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said six people were also wounded in the attack, including two police officers. Four of the wounded were reported in serious condition. He said police were searching the area for other suspects.

Associated Press footage from the scene showed the synagogue, in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighborhood, surrounded by police and rescue workers following the attack.

Wounded worshippers were being assisted by paramedics and a bloodied butcher’s knife lay near the scene of the attack.

“I tried to escape. The man with the knife approached me. There was a chair and table between us … my prayer shawl got caught. I left it there and escaped,” Yossi, who was praying at the synagogue at the time of the attack, told Israeli Channel 2 TV. He declined to give his last name.

A photo in Israeli media from inside the synagogue showed what appeared to be a body on the floor draped in a prayer shawl, with blood smattered nearby.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the attackers were Palestinians from east Jerusalem, which has been the scene of relentless clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in recent months.

Jerusalem itself has seen a spate of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis. At least six people have been killed in the city, the West Bank and Tel Aviv in recent weeks, prior to Tuesday’s casualties.

Jerusalem residents have already been fearful of what appeared to be lone wolf attacks using cars or knives against pedestrians. But Tuesday’s synagogue attack harkens back to the gruesome attacks during the Palestinian uprising of the last decade.

Israel’s police chief said Tuesday’s attack was likely not organized by militant groups, similar to other recent incidents, making it more difficult for security forces to prevent the violence.

“These are individuals that decide to do horrible acts. It’s very hard to know ahead of time about every such incident,” Yohanan Danino told reporters at the scene.

Tensions appeared to have been somewhat defused last week following a meeting between Netanyahu, Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman. The meeting was an attempt to restore calm after months of violent confrontations surrounding a sacred shrine holy to both Jews and Muslims.

Israel and the Palestinians said then they would take steps to reduce tensions that might lead to an escalation.

In his statement, Netanyahu blamed the violence on incitement by both Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and said the international community ignores the incitement.

Kerry blamed the attack on Palestinian calls for “days of rage,” and said Palestinian leaders must take serious steps to refrain from such incitement. He also urged Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack “in the most powerful terms.”

Hamas’ statement praised the synagogue attack, saying it was a “response to continued Israeli crimes, the killing, desecrating al-Aqsa (mosque),” a reference to a recent incident at the holy site.

Much of the recent violence stems from tensions surrounding the Jerusalem holy site referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount because of the Jewish temples that stood there in biblical times. It is the most sacred place in Judaism; Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The site is so holy that Jews have traditionally refrained from going there, instead praying at the adjacent Western Wall. Israel’s chief rabbis have urged people not to ascend to the area, but in recent years, a small but growing number of Jews, including ultranationalist lawmakers, have begun regularly visiting the site.

TIME Israel

EU Proposal Could Punish Israel for Settlements

(JERUSALEM) — An internal European Union document proposes unspecified “actions” against Israel for its settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, reflecting unhappiness with the lack of progress in Mideast peace efforts.

The document, known as a “nonpaper,” is a proposal that is meant to serve as a basis for discussion among the EU’s 28 member states. While it is far from becoming policy, the document noted that it was drawn up with “inputs” by member states, indicating at least some support for the proposals.

The document calls for unspecified moves against European companies operating in Israeli settlements. It also proposes actions against settlers themselves, including a “no contact” policy toward settler organizations, and a refusal “to engage with settlers,” including public figures who oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The proposals reflect European frustration over the lack of progress in peace efforts.

The last round of U.S.-brokered talks collapsed in April. Since then, Israel fought a 50-day war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and advanced plans to build hundreds of new homes in Jewish areas of east Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians as their capital. Israel has also experienced deadly unrest surrounding Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site.

The EU document was first published Monday by Israel’s Haaretz daily.

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini played down the document.

“It certainly was not on the ministers’ table today and it was not at the heart of today’s discussion,” she said. “There was certainly no question of isolating or sanctioning anybody, rather how can we re-motivate people to get into a dialogue again.”

In a statement, the ministers said future relations with both Israel and the Palestinians would depend “on their engagement toward a lasting peace based on a two-state solution.”

Speaking with his German counterpart Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said attempts to link Israel’s relations with Europe to progress in peace talks are “misguided.”

TIME Israel

Palestinians Stab Two Israelis to Death

Israeli soldiers stand near a knife at the scene of a stabbing attack near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Alon Shvut
Israeli soldiers stand near a knife at the scene of a stabbing attack near the Jewish settlement of Alon Shvut in the West Bank on Nov. 10, 2014 Ronen Zvulun—Reuters

The attacks come amid heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians

Palestinians in Tel Aviv and the occupied West Bank stabbed to death an Israeli soldier and a woman in separate attacks on Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the stabbings acts of terrorism and pledged to stamp out “terror being directed at all parts of the country,” Reuters reports.

Tensions have been running high in the past few weeks, with Palestinians in some Arab communities taking to the streets in stone-throwing protests after Israeli police shot and killed a Palestinian who attacked them with a knife.

The militant group Islamic Jihad claimed as a member the Palestinian man who stabbed three people outside a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, including the woman who died.

The Palestinian man who stabbed to death an Israel solider at a Tel Aviv train station on the same day was identified by police as a resident of the West Bank with no criminal record.

[Reuters]

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