At least seven people were shot dead at a synagogue in East Jerusalem on Friday night, in an attack that was the deadliest in the city since 2008 and amid one of the bloodiest months in Israel and the occupied territories, outside of a full-scale war, for several years.
The attack followed the killing of nine Palestinians during an Israeli Army raid in the occupied West Bank on Thursday. The sequence falls against a backdrop of rising tensions across the region following the election of the most far-right government in Israeli history and spiraling violence in the West Bank, where more than 170 Palestinians were killed in 2022, the highest annual toll for more than a decade and a half.
In the attack on Friday, the Israeli police said that a gunman started firing at people at about 8:15 p.m. at a building used as a synagogue in Neve Yakov, an Israeli settlement in the northern tip of East Jerusalem.
Seven people were killed, according to the police. Three others were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds, including a 70-year-old in critical condition, according to Magen David Adom, an emergency medical group that treated the victims at the scene.
The attacker drove away in a car and was intercepted by a police squad about five minutes after the initial shooting, according to a police statement. The attacker, later identified as a resident of East Jerusalem, was then shot dead by the police after a brief chase and shootout. The police also released a photograph of a handgun said to have been used by the assailant.
Five of the victims were already dead by the time paramedics from Magen David Adom arrived on the scene. “We saw a woman and four men lying on the road,” said Fadi Dekidek, a medic, according to a statement released by Magen David Adom.
The attack occurred at the end of a particularly deadly month in the occupied West Bank, where at least 30 Palestinian assailants and civilians have been killed since the start of the year during Israeli military raids on Palestinian areas or Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
Officials from Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, praised the attack, portraying it as a response to the Israeli raid on Thursday in the West Bank city of Jenin, which left nine Palestinians dead. Videos posted to social media also appeared to show Palestinians celebrating the attack across the occupied territories.
Tensions in the region have risen sharply since the new Israeli coalition government took office in late December. An alliance of hard-line nationalists and ultraconservatives, the government declared in a list of its guiding principles that the Jewish people have the exclusive right to the occupied territories.