Ahead of a meeting with his government’s security cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised “a strong, swift and precise response.” One of the attacks involved a shooting outside of a synagogue in East Jerusalem, on Friday, which killed at least seven people and injured three others. In a separate incident on Saturday, at least two people were injured following another shooting in the city.
“We are not seeking an escalation, but we are prepared for any scenario,” said Netanyahu ahead of the meeting on Saturday. Subsequently, Israel’s security cabinet announced measures which include revoking certain rights of “terrorist families” and decided to make it easier for civilians to obtain permits allowing them to carry firearms.
The first attack took place late Friday (January 27) in annexed East Jerusalem and has been described by the Israeli police as “a terrorist incident,” which led to the killing of seven people and wounding of three others before the perpetrator was shot dead by the police. Furthermore, Israeli police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said the shooting was “one of the worst attacks we have encountered in recent years,” reported AFP.
It took place near a synagogue in the settlement neighbourhood of Neve Yaacov, in East Jerusalem where worshippers gathered for the Sabbath on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The attacker was later identified as Khaire Alkam, a 21-year-old Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem who arrived at 8:15 pm (local time) outside the synagogue, said the police.
“The terrorist shot at everyone he encountered. He got out of the car and began a murderous rampage with a handgun”, said Shabtai, as per Times of Israel. According to the Israeli police, the gunman fled in a car after opening fire and was chased. Subsequently, after an exchange of fire, the attacker was “neutralised”, said the police.
According to a report by Reuters, the gunman was a relative of a 17-year-old Palestinian who was shot dead on Wednesday during clashes with Israeli forces in West Bank, said the gunman’s family. “He is neither the first nor the last young man to get martyred and what he did is a source of pride”, said the 21-year-old’s father Moussa Alkam who claims that he did not have prior knowledge about his son seeking revenge, as per Reuters.
The next day (January 28), another attack occurred where a 13-year-old Palestinian boy shot and wounded a 47-year-old Israeli father and his son, 23, in Silwan, East Jerusalem, reported AFP. Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency response service in a video posted on Twitter said they were informed about the attack around 10:42 am (local time) and upon arrival they found two injured people lying down with “gunshot wounds to their upper body”.
As per local media reports citing the Israeli police, the shooter, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was “neutralised and injured”. Additionally, an Israeli police spokesman Dean Elsdunne told The Associated Press that the attacker “waited to ambush civilians on the holy Sabbath day,” adding that the teenager opened fire on a group of five civilians.
The wounded teenager was later taken to the hospital, said the officials, he was also reportedly identified as an East Jerusalem resident and was suspected of having a terrorist motive. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for either of these attacks.
The East Jerusalem attacks also came days after Israeli forces conducted a raid in West Bank on Thursday (January 26) where, according to Palestinian officials, seven gunmen and two civilians were killed in what may be the deadliest day on the territory in two decades. Furthermore, at least 20 others had been injured following a live ammunition raid on the Jenin refugee camp where Israeli troops surrounded buildings and clashed with Palestinian militants, as per reports.
There was also an exchange of fire between Tel Aviv and the Gaza Strip on Friday which Israel later said that it “targeted an underground rocket manufacturing site” belonging to Hamas and a north Gaza military base used by the group.
According to a report by AFP citing security sources in Hamas Islamist-controlled Gaza there had been 15 strikes targeting militant sites and no injuries were reported. Meanwhile, the Israeli army said two rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel around midnight, which triggered sirens in Israeli communities near the border. These attacks continued for several hours while no group claimed responsibility for firing the rockets.
After the synagogue attack on Friday, the Israeli police have made dozens of arrests while the military has said they will send more forces to West Bank. Furthermore, Israeli officers on Sunday (January 29) sealed off the Palestinian gunman’s Jerusalem family home, said the police. This also comes after Netanyahu said the Israeli government would pursue sanctions against the families of assailants following the security cabinet meeting late Saturday.
“The police arrested 42 suspects for questioning, some of them from the terrorist’s family,” said the Israeli police. Furthermore, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that after a “situational assessment,” it has decided to “reinforce the Judea and Samaria (West Bank) division with an additional battalion”.
In light of the recent attacks, the Israeli security cabinet convened on Saturday (January 28) and subsequently announced measures which include revoking certain rights of “terrorist families”, as per AFP. Additionally, the cabinet also moved to revoke the rights to social security of “the families of terrorists that support terrorism”.
Furthermore, they have decided to increase gun permits for licensed civilians to defend against street attacks, a move which National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir prior to the meeting had said he would push for. “When civilians have guns, they can defend themselves”, said Ben-Gvir to the press outside a Jerusalem hospital on Saturday, reported AFP.
The attack drew international condemnation from several countries including the United States, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and so on. Additionally, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the attack was “particularly abhorrent” as it occurred at a place of worship and on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Furthermore, among the seven killed during Friday’s attack was a Ukrainian woman, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky while expressing solidarity with Israel. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia which has no formal ties with Israel warned against “further escalation” and said the country “condemns all targeting of civilians.”
On the other hand, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has still not remarked on Friday’s attack and blamed Israel for the spiralling violence, on Saturday.