Israel promises a quick response to the shooting at a synagogue

  • Shooting in the aftermath of the Israeli incursion into the West Bank and strikes in Gaza
  • Israel reinforces West Bank forces
  • Abbas holds Israel responsible for the escalation

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Saturday a “strong, swift and precise” response to a Palestinian shooting attack near a synagogue on the outskirts of Jerusalem, as the Israeli army sent more troops into the occupied West Bank.

Seven people were killed in Friday’s attack and two others were wounded in another shooting in the city on Saturday.

“We are not seeking escalation, but we are ready for any scenario,” Netanyahu said during his cabinet meeting.

He later said the security cabinet decided to increase gun permits for authorized civilians to defend against street attacks. Before the meeting, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said he would push for the move.

Police said that a 13-year-old Palestinian boy in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem opened fire on Saturday at a group of Israeli passers-by, injuring two before one of them shot and injured him.

The Israeli army said a Palestinian, who was seen on the outskirts of a settlement in the West Bank and was armed with a pistol, had been “neutralised”.

Friday’s Jerusalem attack followed an Israeli raid Thursday in the West Bank city of Jenin that killed nine Palestinians, including seven gunmen, and a shooting across the border on Friday between Israel and Gaza.

An Israeli military spokesman said an additional battalion had been sent to the West Bank to reinforce it.

However, there was no indication that Israel was preparing for a large-scale operation, and its brief exchange across the border with Gaza ended with no casualties.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to arrive on Monday for a two-day visit to Israel and the West Bank, where clashes have escalated for months.

Thursday’s raid was the deadliest in years in the West Bank, where Israel has stepped up operations since a series of deadly Palestinian street attacks in its cities last year.

At least 30 Palestinians – activists and civilians – have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of the month.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who heads the pro-settler Religious Zionism party and like Ben Gvir is a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said he was calling for an acceleration of Israeli settlement construction plans in the West Bank.

Netanyahu said after the cabinet meeting that he had decided on the steps that would be presented this week to “strengthen the settlements,” without elaborating.

In a Jerusalem hospital treating wounded people, Ben Gvir said more weapons permits were warranted. “I want weapons in the street,” he said. “I want Israeli citizens to be able to protect themselves.”


Friday’s attack outside a synagogue was the deadliest in the Jerusalem area since 2008. The attack took place in a neighborhood on land that Israel annexed to Jerusalem after it captured it in the 1967 war, in a move not recognized internationally.

The gunman, Khairy Alqam, was a 21-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem. Police said that among the dead was a 14-year-old boy. No group has claimed responsibility for the shooting, and Alqam’s father told Reuters his son had no links to militants.

Police said 42 suspects, including his family members, have been arrested. Netanyahu said the cabinet decided to pursue sanctions against the families of the attackers.

Police said Alqam arrived at 8:15 pm and opened fire with a pistol, injuring several people before the police killed him.

His family said the gunman was a relative of a 17-year-old Palestinian who was shot dead on Wednesday in clashes with Israeli forces in a Jerusalem refugee camp.

His father, Musa Alqam, said he did not know if his son was seeking revenge. Alqam said, “He is not the first young man to be martyred, nor the last, and what he did is proud.”

Shimon Israel, 56, who lives near the site of the attack, said Saturday that his family was starting Shabbat dinner when they heard gunfire and screams. He opened the window and saw his neighbor running down the street to get the police.

“I told him ‘Hey Ellie, don’t go there.'” Eli, don’t go.” Israel told Reuters, “He got married just a year ago… a good neighbor like his brother. Escaped. I saw him fall there.”

“His wife, Natalie, ran after him. She saw someone here and was trying to resuscitate him. The terrorist came and shot her from behind, hitting her too,” he said.

In Tel Aviv, tens of thousands of Israelis who demonstrated against Netanyahu’s plans to reform Israel’s judiciary began the protest on Saturday with a minute’s silence for the dead.


The shooting on Friday, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, was met with widespread condemnation, including by Washington, the United Nations and Israel’s Arab and Western allies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in Kyiv that a Ukrainian woman was among the dead.

Saudi Arabia, which has no official relations with Israel, condemned the targeting of civilians and the need to stop the escalation of violence.

The Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah praised the attack, as did Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made no mention of the attack in a statement carried by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, blaming Israel for the escalation in violence.

Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing powers in the West Bank, suspended security cooperation arrangements with Israel after the raid on Jenin on Thursday.

Additional reporting by Ammar Awad and Elie Berlzon in Jerusalem. Nidal al-Mughrabi from Gaza and Ali al-Sawafta in Ramallah. Written by Dominic Evans and Mayann Lubell; Editing by Frances Kerry, Raisa Kasuluski, and Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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