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Palestinians Kill 5 in Attack on Jerusalem Synagogue

By VOA News, Israel Hayom &

A policeman wounded by gunfire in Tuesday's terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue has died, bringing the death toll to five. The other victims were rabbis with dual citizenship, three Americans and a Briton. Seven other people were wounded.

Two Palestinians armed with guns, knives, and a meat cleaver burst into the synagogue during a prayer service early Tuesday and attacked worshipers. Police shot the two terrorists to death. The floor of the synagogue was covered with Jewish prayer shawls soaked in pools of blood.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack. But the terrorist group Hamas celebrated it as another act avenging Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered police to tear down the homes of the two attackers and speed destruction of houses belonging to those behind earlier terror strikes.

The attack occurred in an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood in West Jerusalem with a large number of Western immigrants. Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said the synagogue was full of people praying when the attackers struck. "Our police officers that arrived at the scene engaged contact with those terrorists and shot and killed the terrorists within moments," Rosenfeld said.

It was the first known shooting at a house of worship in Israel since 1994 when a Jewish settler, American-born physician Baruch Goldstein, opened fire at a shrine venerated by both Muslims and Jews, killing 29 Palestinian worshipers and wounding 125 others.

Following the gruesome terror attack, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened an emergency security situation assessment at his office, saying that Israel "will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were met by reprehensible murderers." Netanyahu also blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for inciting the violence that led to the attack. "This is the direct result of incitement being led by Hamas and Abbas, incitement which the international community is irresponsibly ignoring," Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters in London ahead of a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also denounced the attack. "People who had come to worship God in the sanctuary of a synagogue were hatcheted and hacked and murdered in that holy place in an act of pure terror and senseless brutality," he said.

Kerry, who said he had spoken to Netanyahu following the incident, called for Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack. "The Palestinian leadership must condemn this and 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," Kerry said. "This simply has no place in human behavior."

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro also condemned the attack, saying, "The cruel terror attack represents a new barbaric order in the sad, outrageous history of these attacks. The murder of worshipers as they pray in a synagogue is an act of pure evil. On behalf of the U.S. government and the American people, I strongly condemn this act and any other act of incitement."

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino arrived at the scene of the attack early Tuesday and stressed they would do everything necessary to restore a sense of security to the residents of the capital city. "The attack was an obvious result of the incitement we have been witnessing from the Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas," Aharonovitch said, calling on the residents of the city to show restraint and avoid "taking the law into your own hands." Aharonovitch also said that the police would bolster security around synagogues in the capital.

Several hours before the attack, an image of a knife was posted on the Hamas website, along with the words: "We vow to avenge the death of the shahid [martyr] Yusuf Hassan Ramouni soon." The words referred to the Arab bus driver whose body was found on an Israeli bus on Monday. Contrary to his family's claims that he was murdered, forensic experts ruled Monday that the cause of his death was suicide.

Following the attack, Hamas praised the terrorists and called on all Arabs who possess Israeli ID cards to carry out terror attacks against Israelis with whatever weapons they have at their disposal. Hamas specifically referred to Ramouni, saying that Tuesday's terror attack was a response to his death.

The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, condemned the attack. A statement from Abbas' office said, "The Palestinian presidency regularly condemns the murder of civilians and condemns the killing of worshipers in one of the prayer houses today in Western Jerusalem." Abbas added, however, that the Palestinian Authority was demanding that Israel "stop breaking into Al-Aqsa mosque, stop settler provocations and stop the incitement by a number of Israeli ministers."

Meanwhile, in Israel, officials continued to hold Abbas responsible for the attack, accusing him and the Palestinian Authority of inciting violence. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon condemned the incitement, saying the attack was "fueled by the institutional defamation of Israel, spread and encouraged by the Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas, and in textbooks, media and mendacious speeches full of unprecedented hatred. We are witnessing again and again attempts by Palestinian terrorists to undermine Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem and to kill as many Jews as possible simply because they are Jews."

The latest victim has been identified as Zidan Seyf, 27, a police officer from the Arab town of Yanuh-Jat, located in northern Israel, northeast of the city of Akko. Seyf was among the officers who arrived at the scene of the attack and, after a shootout, were able to take down the terrorists. He was taken to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital where, after hours of fighting for his life, the doctors pronounced him dead. He leaves behind a wife, a four-month-old baby, parents and five brothers. He will be brought to rest on Wednesday in Yanuh-Jat.

Four other victims in the attack were Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 'Rosh Kollel' for the 'Torat Moshe' yeshiva and grandson of Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik; Rabbi Kalman Levine; Aryeh Kupinsky, and Avraham Shmuel Goldberg. Police revealed that all four victims were dual citizens, with three holding American citizenship, and the fourth British citizenship. The four were brought to rest earlier on Tuesday.

Terrorists Ghassan and Uday Jamal stormed the synagogue early Tuesday morning armed with knives, a meat cleaver and a pistol, inflicting horrific wounds on their victims, which also included eight injured - four of them seriously. Grisly images from inside the synagogue showed prayer books and traditional white prayer shawls drenched in blood, and a wide arc of blood splattered across walls and bookshelves.

CNN has apologized for one of several errors in its reporting of Tuesday morning's brutal terrorist attack in Jerusalem.

In one particularly jarring error, the headline presented for the story broadcast live to tens of millions of viewers read: "Israeli... Police Shot, Killed 2 Palestinians." The headline sparked outrage, with one prominent Israeli activist calling for the CNN reporter responsible to have his press credentials removed.

Several hours and countless angry responses later, the international news corporation finally apologized. "As CNN updated its reporting on the terrorist attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem earlier today, our coverage did not immediately reflect the fact that the two Palestinians killed were the attackers. We erred and regret the mistake," said a statement.

But the particular headline in question was just one of a raft of CNN bloopers surrounding the attack - leading many Israelis suspicious that the "mistake" had more to do with the corporation's editorial line than human error, with some accusing reporters of bending over backwards to play-down Palestinian violence.

One particularly embarrassing, headline aired shortly after the story broke, read "Deadly Attack on Jerusalem Mosque," while another seemed to play down the role of the "2 Palestinians" (i.e. terrorists) who were killed by police by equating their death with those of their victims, blandly proclaiming: "4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians Dead in Jerusalem."

As the four initial victims were laid to rest Tuesday afternoon, Israelis are still in shock at the depravity of the attack on unarmed worshipers as they prayed. The four victims - Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Kalman Levine, Aryeh Kupinsky, and Avraham Shmuel Goldberg leave behind grieving widows and 24 orphans between them.

"One of the worshipers came out full of blood, and said: there was a massacre," a witness told IDF Radio. "Police took only 11 minutes to arrive and paramedics arrived five minutes later."

Sarah Abrahams, a horrified resident, described scenes of carnage. "I was going for a morning walk and passing by on the road above the synagogue," she said. "Someone told me not to go any closer and that there was something big going on, but I walked down to see. There were people running from the synagogue, and a man sitting on the pavement covered in blood, it looked like he has been stabbed," she said.

"The police were already there, and when one of the terrorists emerged from the synagogue they shot him on the steps. Two people came out with their faces half missing, looking like they'd been attacked with knives."

As she spoke, medics brought out four bodies one by one, each wrapped in white plastic, and loaded them gently into ambulances. Grisly images from inside the synagogue showed prayer books and traditional white prayer shawls drenched in blood, and a wide arc of blood splattered across walls and bookshelves.

Fighting back tears, Moshe Eliezer said he had narrowly avoided being at the scene after oversleeping. "This is a yeshiva community. Ninety percent don't serve in the army. We're not violent," he said.

Even Israeli emergency workers, who are no strangers to the bloody scenes of terrorist attacks, were shocked by the sheer scale and brutality of the slaughter Moti Bukchi who went inside to help the wounded described scenes of horror. "The scene inside was harrowing, with a lot of blood," he told AFP. "Inside the synagogue some people were wounded by gunshots, others had chopped off limbs caused by a meat cleaver," he said. "We have seen things here for the first time - a man goes in with a meat cleaver and starts to attack people and chop off their limbs? That is something new."

Another emergency worker and local resident, Eli Pollak, described what he saw as "one of the cruelest scenes I have ever witnessed." Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav said what he saw resembled images from the Holocaust.

"I don't remember seeing a disaster scene as shocking as this, (the victims) were wrapped in talit (prayer shawls) and tefilin (phylacteries)," he said, describing "puddles, rivers of blood throughout the entire synagogue, siddurim (prayer books) thrown all over the floor - a sight that we only recognize from the Holocaust, from the period of the Holocaust.

"These are Jews who got up early in the morning to pray to the Creator of the World, and in the middle of their prayers - in the middle of a religious act, of an act of faith, not of conflict - were attacked...I do not know what is more shocking than this."

Meanwhile, Palestinians celebrated the massacre. In Gaza and Bethlehem revelers handed out candies and celebrated with passersby, while in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukhaber, where the two terrorists behind the attack lived, family members gleefully celebrated their "martyrdom.

"We responded with shouts of joy when we received the news about their deaths," Ala'a Abu Jamal said of his cousins Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal to Yedioth Aharonoth. "People here distributed candies to guests who visited us, and there was joy for the martyrs."

The party didn't last long for the Abu Jamal's though; police raided the neighborhood and arrested 12 people, including several family members. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the demolition of the terrorists' homes, and Interior Minister Gilad Erdan announced he will be expelling the wife of one of the killers from Jerusalem.

CNN weren't the only ones making outrageous reportage failures concerning the brutal terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday morning - Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) took to Facebook to do her part as well.

"I met and spoke with 12th grade students about the attack this morning. I told them that axes that kill worshipers at a synagogue in Jerusalem, that's a serious and shocking incident for all of us," Livni wrote on her page accompanied by a picture of herself in the Beit Shemesh classroom.

The phrasing suggesting that it was the axes that did the killing did not escape the attention - or the hilarity - of users, one of whom commented to the delight of other browsers "those axes, I'm telling you. They go around and slaughter in the streets freely." Another wrote "so let's make peace with the axes."

Two hours later, as users were ripping into the enigmatic post, Walla! reports that the post was subtly changed to read "the usage of axes by terrorists with the goal of killing worshipers." But just as users were starting to respond to the change, it was changed back to "axes that kill worshipers."

The minister's Facebook frenzy didn't stop there however; around 20 minutes later the post was changed again back to "the usage of axes by terrorists with the goal of killing worshipers." And then a minute later it was changed to its final version: "the usage of axes by terrorists so as to kill worshipers."

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