18 Nov 2014

Briton among four dead in Jerusalem synagogue attack

A rabbi with dual British-Israeli nationality is among the dead after two suspected Palestinian men entered a Jerusalem synagogue armed with axes, knives and a pistol.

Police shot and killed the two attackers when they arrived at the scene in what the authorities are calling a terrorist incident.

The British man has been named by Jewish News as Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg. He emigrated to Israel in the 1990s.

The man is a grandfather, who is a former resident of Golders Green, London and Liverpool. He worked in publishing.

The Goldberg family issued a brief statement, saying: “The Goldberg family accepts the divine decree with love.”

A friend told Jewish News: “He was the most wonderful person you could meet, a pillar of the community. I was on my way to the synagogue when I heard screams and shots being fired, I knew instantly it was bad.”

The Foreign Office said: “We are aware of the death of a dual British-Israeli national in Israel on 18 November 2014.”

The dead man is one of four Israelis who died. At least eight more are injured after one of the most deadly attacks in the city in years.

Israel’s foreign ministry has said all four victims were rabbis.

Funerals have begun at the synagogue where the Jewish men were killed.

In one picture from scene, a man’s body is seen with an arm-tefillin, a black leather box with scrolls inscribed with verses from the Torah worn during prayer, still in his hand.

According to the Ma’an news agency, the attackers are cousins Ghassan Abu Jamal and Uday Abu Jamal.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine says the two men are members of the group, in an emailed press statement. But it did not go so far as to claim responsibility for the attack.

‘Lowly murderers’

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, blamed the attack on both Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by lowly murderers,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a statement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack. “The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it,” his office said in a statement.

Hamas praised the attacks but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

“Hamas calls for the continuation of revenge operations and stresses that the Israeli occupation bears responsibility for tension in Jerusalem,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Increasing violence

Police say the two attackers were Palestinians from east Jerusalem. The attack took place shortly after dawn in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood.

Pictures posted on Twitter by Israeli defence forces spokesman Peter Lerner showed a bloodied meat cleaver – apparently used in the attack.

Violence in Jerusalem has increased in recent weeks, fuelled by a dispute over Jerusalem’s holiest shrine, which has given rise to fears of a religious conflict.

The religious compound – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif – is usually used only by Muslims. Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging the long-standing ban on Jews praying at the site.

Five Israelis and a foreign visitor have been deliberately run over and killed or stabbed to death by Palestinians in the last month. About a dozen Palestinians have also been killed, including those accused of carrying out those attacks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called the attack an act of “senseless brutality”.

“This simply has no place in human behaviour,” Kerry told reporters ahead of a meting with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in London.

“People who had come to worship God in the sanctuary of the synagogue were hatcheted and hacked and murdered in their holy place in an act of pure terror and senseless brutality.”