Update as of 6:20 a.m. EST: Riots have broken out in the neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber -- where the suspected attackers are from -- in the southern outskirts of East Jerusalem, according to local media reports. The clashes reportedly broke out after Israeli police personnel arrived there and attempted to enter the suspects' homes.
Nine people have been arrested so far, an Israeli police spokesperson reportedly said. Meanwhile, Robert Serry, the United Nations' Middle East envoy, also condemned the attack and urged “all sides to do everything they can possibly do to avoid further escalation in the already very tense situation in Jerusalem.”
Update as of 4:30 a.m. EST: Reacting to the attack on a West Jerusalem synagogue, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a tweet, posted through his official account, that Israel will “respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews.”
He also spoke to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is currently in London, and said that the attack was a direct result of “incitement” from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the rival Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. Kerry reportedly condemned the attack, calling it an “act of pure terror and senseless brutality and violence.”
Reactions from the Palestinian side, however, were divided. While Hamas welcomed the attack, calling it “an appropriate and functional response to the crimes of the occupation,” Abbas condemned the “killing of civilians no matter who is doing it.” Meanwhile, Haaretz reported, citing unnamed sources, that the attackers were Rassan and Adi Abu al-Jamal -- cousins living in a neighborhood in the southern part of East Jerusalem.
At least six people, including four Israelis and two Palestinians, were reportedly killed during an attack on a synagogue in West Jerusalem on Tuesday, an Israeli police spokesperson said on Twitter. Although the region has witnessed several incidents of violence in recent months, Tuesday’s attacks could mark a significant escalation of hostilities in the strife-torn territory.
Israeli police reportedly said that two men, armed with knives and axes, entered a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood, located on the western outskirts of Jerusalem, and attacked worshippers before they were shot dead by the police. At least seven other people were injured in the attack, according to media reports. An Israeli police official identified the attackers as Palestinians from East Jerusalem, according to a report by Haaretz.
“We are viewing this as a terrorist attack,” police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld reportedly said. “Police units are on site and the area has been closed off. Emergency teams treating the injured in Jerusalem hospitals.”
The latest attack comes amid heightened tensions in and around the city of Jerusalem, which has witnessed several clashes in recent months over access to the Al-Aqsa and Temple Mount compound in East Jerusalem.
Dozens of Israelis and Palestinians have been killed and injured in clashes that have been raging since the recently-concluded 50-day war in the Gaza Strip, according to media reports.