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Jerusalem synagogue shooting leaves 7 dead

A Palestinian militant killed at least seven Israelis in a gunfight outside a synagogue on the outskirts of Jerusalem on Friday as tensions continued to rise following the deadliest Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank in years.

Police said the shooter, whom they identified as a 21-year-old East Jerusalem resident, approached the synagogue in Neve Yaakov around 8:15 pm local time, as congregants were celebrating the Sabbath.

He opened fire on several people, after which he fled and was killed by the police who were called to the scene. In addition to the dead, three other people were injured, according to police.

The shooting, which was the deadliest in Jerusalem since 2008 and took place on Holocaust Remembrance Day, came a day after Israeli commandos killed nine Palestinians during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank that targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters.

In response, Islamic Jihad fighters in Gaza fired rockets into Israel Thursday night, prompting Israel to bomb targets in the coastal enclave that has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since the Hamas militant group came to power in 2007. side.

The outbreak of violence is the first major clash since Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline new government, widely regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history, came to power in December, with ultranationalists in key positions in the security forces vowing to take a tougher stance against the Palestinians.

Netanyahu visited the site of the shooting on Friday evening. He called the attack “one of the most serious in recent years” and said the cabinet would meet on Saturday.

“Our hearts are with the families,” he said. “We must act decisively and calmly. I urge people not to take the law into their own hands.”

Yair Lapid, a former prime minister who heads the largest opposition party, Yesh Atid, called the attack “terrible and heartbreaking.”

“We cannot allow terrorism to raise its head and must respond with a firm hand to terrorists and those who send them,” he said.

Police said they believe the shooter acted alone, but they are searching the area to rule out the possibility of accomplices. Responsibility was not immediately claimed, although Palestinian militant groups praised the attack.

Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman, said the attack was “a natural reaction to the criminal actions of the occupiers.”

Friday’s shooting follows months of near-night clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank and a 56-hour conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza last August, which added to fears that long-standing Israeli-Palestinian tensions could escalate into more big confrontation.

Last year was the bloodiest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005, according to the UN, with Israeli forces killing 151 people in the territory after ramping up their activities there following a series of Palestinian attacks that began last spring that killed 31 Israelis in 2022. .

In a separate incident Friday night, three Palestinians were hospitalized after being shot near Nablus in the northern West Bank, according to Palestinian media reports. The identity of the shooter could not be immediately established.

The Palestinian Authority said Thursday night it was ending security cooperation with Israel in response to the Jenin raid, prompting US officials to urge them to reverse the decision.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is due to visit Israel and the West Bank next week as part of a planned visit to the region. CIA chief William Burns also paid a visit on Friday.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he condemned Friday’s shooting and was “deeply concerned” by the escalation in violence. “The time has come to show maximum restraint,” the spokesman said.

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