JERUSALEM The gruesome slaying of five Israelis at a synagogue early Tuesday left many residents of this city fearing that the worst is still to come, as Jerusalem descends deeper into a cycle of terror attacks and violent protest over its religious sites.
Many Israelis were especially stunned by the sense of violation created by the attack, in which two Palestinians armed with cleavers and a gun stormed a synagogue in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of West Jerusalem and killed four rabbis: a Briton and three Americans, including a member of two of Orthodox Judaisms most prominent families.
Late Tuesday, an Israeli police officer who rushed to the scene died of wounds suffered in the attack, and Israeli forces threatened to begin demolishing the family homes of Palestinians who have attacked Israelis. The Palestinian assailants, cousins from majority-Arab East Jerusalem, were killed at the scene by police.
Photographs of the attacks aftermath, released by the Israeli government, showed prayer shawls, an open prayer book and the arm of one of the four rabbis, wrapped in scripture-laden tefillin, lying in pools of blood.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday night accused Palestinian leaders of inciting the violence and committing blood libel by suggesting that Jews were responsible for the death this week of a Palestinian bus driver who Israeli police say committed suicide by hanging.
Two Palestinian men allegedly killed four people with axes and knives inside a synagogue in Jerusalem early Tuesday, before police shot them dead. The attack happened in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of West Jerusalem. (Reuters)
Tuesday evening, Netanyahu ordered the destruction of the East Jerusalem homes of those linked to recent attacks. Seven Israelis have been killed in recent weeks as Palestinians rammed a car into passengers awaiting a Jerusalem Light Rail train and slashed people with knives at a bus stop in the West Bank and at a train station in Tel Aviv.
The home-razing tactic was common a decade ago, but Israel has rarely used it in recent years. Netanyahu said Tuesday the demolitions are an effective deterrent against further attacks.
This is a battle over Jerusalem, he said in a nationally televised address, insisting that Israelis would never give up their claims to the contested city. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which is annexed and occupied by Israel, to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.
The Palestinian Authoritys president, Mahmoud Abbas, denounced Tuesdays slayings and said such attacks violate all religious principles and do not serve the common interest we are trying to promote establishing a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.