Saturday’s shooting came a day after a Palestinian gunman killed seven people — including children — during prayer services at a synagogue in East Jerusalem on Friday night, as Palestinians in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank took to the streets in celebration and Israeli leaders prepared to meet and finalize a response.
Friday’s attack was the deadliest on Israeli worshipers in years, and came as the region risked entering a whirlpool of escalation. On Thursday, an Israeli military raid killed nine Palestinians at a refugee camp in Jenin, in what was the deadliest single operation in the West Bank in nearly two decades, Palestinian officials said. And early Friday, militants in Gaza fired rockets into Israel, which launched air strikes into the territory.
The clashes are an early test for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government, which came into power late last month planning to restrict minority rights and allow harsher treatment of Palestinians. Netanyahu said Friday that his security cabinet will meet on Saturday evening, and his government had already decided on the immediate action it would take.
Funerals for Friday’s shooting victims are slated to take place on Saturday evening after Shabbat ends. They will come as Israeli military and police are operating on the highest possible alert level, are requesting the public to report suspicious objects that could be a bomb and have boosted forces throughout East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel in anticipation of a continuation of clashes. Israeli police said on Saturday that they had arrested 42 people in connection with Friday’s shooting.
The weekend shootings took place in East Jerusalem, a contested area of the city which Israel has controlled since its annexation in 1967 and which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital. . A previous Netanyahu government sought to evict a group of Palestinians from their East Jerusalem homes in favor of Jewish settlers, leading to a bloody 11-day confrontation between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.
After Friday night’s shooting, Israeli officials offered mixed messages. Even as Netanyahu pledged a response, he also urged ordinary Israelis “not to take the law into their own hands.” But his far-right security minister Itamar Ben Gvir suggested that the government would loosen gun regulations for civilians, and his supporters gathered at the synagogue, chanting: “Death to the terrorists.”
Meanwhile, celebrations of the massacre erupted across cities and towns in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. A Twitter account affiliated with Hamas posted videos of fireworks, horns honking, people cheering and photos of Palestinians handing out treats.
Hamas politician Mushir al-Masri congratulated the East Jerusalem attacker on Friday, saying the shooting was “a quick response” to the deadly Israeli military raid in Jenin the day before, and was “evidence of the vitality and readiness of the resistance.”
The suspected shooter, who was killed by security forces at the scene, was identified by Israeli police as a 21-year-old Palestinian man from East Jerusalem. He is believed to have acted alone and has no criminal record.
U.S. officials headed to the region found themselves in the middle of the tensions. CIA Director William J. Burns is in Israel this week and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to visit Monday and Tuesday. Blinken will meet with Netanyahu in Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, the State Department said.
Blinken, who recently expressed concern that Netanyahu’s government could escalate conflict in the region, condemned the attacks on Friday “in the strongest terms.”
“The notion of people being targeted as they leave a house of worship is abhorrent,” he said, adding that it was “particularly tragic” that the attack happened on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In a call with Netanyahu on Friday, President Biden “made clear that this was an attack against the civilized world,” and stressed the “iron-clad U.S. commitment to Israel’s security,” according to a White House readout.
Israeli police said the gunman entered the synagogue in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Neve Yaakov at around 8:15 p.m. After opening fire at worshipers, he ran into the street, where he took shots at pedestrians. He tried to flee by car before Israeli security officers killed him at the scene. The gunman’s name has not yet been released.
Ables reported from Seoul.
A previous version of this article incorrectly said that Hamas, the Islamist militant group, rules the West Bank. It rules the Gaza Strip. The article has been corrected.
*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.