A terror attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood left seven dead and more in critical condition. The terrorist, identified as Alkam Khairi, a 21-year-old resident of East Jerusalem with no prior record of terrorist activity, was shot dead by police while trying to escape.
According to the Times of Israel, Khairi entered the synagogue at 8:15 pm, on Friday night (the beginning of the Jewish sabbath) and opened fire on the worshipers. He then chased those who fled the building to the streets, where he shot several more before fleeing the scene.
The tragedy is the latest in a particularly bloody several months, with lone Palestinian attacks being answered by Israeli raids. According to the New York Times, this “Israeli campaign led to the deaths of more than 170 Palestinians in 2022, the highest annual toll for more than a decade and a half, and has fueled an intense new wave of Palestinian anger and militancy.”
The Vatican has long urged a two-state solution in the Holy Land, with a special status for Jerusalem. Last November, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations noted the following:
The complete and durable settlement to the Palestinian Question must include an equitable solution regarding the Holy City of Jerusalem, one that fully upholds the rights of all inhabitants and ensures that all believers, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, enjoy free access to their respective Holy Sites according to the long standing Status Quo. It is only in preserving such rights and freedoms that a lasting peace may be found. To that end, the Holy See reiterates its position in calling for a special status, internationally guaranteed, within which the various aspirations are composed in a harmonious and stable form and are adequately and effectively protected, so that no party can override the rights of the others.
Reports conflict as to Khairi’s get away, with the Jerusalem Post reporting he fled by car and the Times of Israel reporting he fled on foot. Both outlets, however, reported that the assailant fired on police officers as he tried to flee. It was when police returned fire that Khairi was struck and killed.
The reports also conflict as to the response time of the police. The Jerusalem Post reported that police were slow to respond, taking an hour to get to the scene, while The Times of Israel places the timeframe at about 20 minutes. The gunfight between Khairi and the police reportedly ensued about 5 minutes after the police arrived.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the attack was claimed by Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem, who inserted that it came as a “natural response” to the occupation of Jenin, a city on the West Bank.
CNN notes that the incident occurred just one day after a team of Israeli forces killed 9 Palestinians in a raid of a Jenin refugee camp.
The Times of Israel reports that, as of Friday evening, three victims of the synagogue attack were hospitalized for their injuries. Three victims, a woman in her 70s, a man in his 30s, and a 20-year-old man, are listed as in critical condition, while a 14-year-old boy and 60-year-old woman are in moderate-serious condition. A 40-year-old woman who was rushed to the hospital succumbed to her injuries shortly after arrival.
Fadi Dekidek, an MDA paramedic who was on the scene, related the carnage he witnessed to the Jerusalem Post. He said he saw four men lying in the road who were immediately confirmed as deceased, with more wounded lying all around.
“We are trained for this. Sadly, we cannot forget a terror attack, and we experience each one anew. There’s nothing to do; this is the time to act professionally because that’s the difference between life or death,” Dekidek told Jerusalem Post.