Synagogue attack: Israel vows retribution, demolishes Palestinian homes

Synagogue attack: Israel vows retribution, demolishes Palestinian homes
5 min read
19 November, 2014
Binyamin Netanyahu vows 'harsh' response to a deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday and pledges to speed up demolitions of homes of attackers.
Netanyahu says Israel response will be 'harsh' (Getty)

Israeli forces razed on Wednesday the east Jerusalem home of the family of Abdelrahman Shaludi, who killed two Israelis with his car in October, as Israeli politicians called for a harsh response to Tuesday's attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.  

Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers killed four worshippers and a policeman. 

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to speed up demolitions of homes of perpetrators of attacks in Jerusalem in line with a policy announced earlier this month. 

"This evening, I ordered the destruction of the homes of the Palestinians who carried out this massacre and to speed up the demolitions of those who carried out previous attacks," he said. 

Home demolitions have long been used as a punishment in the occupied West Bank but it is the first time that they have been adopted as a matter of policy in occupied Arab east Jerusalem. 

Israel's economy minister, Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party, added his voice to Israeli calls for escalation, and said that Israel needed to go into the West Bank on "a permanent basis".

"Go in with Border Police forces, make arrests, create intelligence channels, stay there on a permanent basis, not just when there's a terror attack," Bennett said to Israeli Army Radio on Wednesday.  

Following the synagogue attack an Israeli settler shot and seriously wounded a Palestinian teenager in a village east of Ramallah, while another Palestinian was stabbed by a group of Israelis in north Jerusalem, Ma'an News Agency reported.

Neighbouring Jordan, which has a large Palestinian population, called for "restraint".

"[Jordan] condemns all acts of violence and terrorism against civilians, whatever the source of the violence or the motives," government spokesman Mohammed Mumeni said.
Collective punishment

Any such Israeli move will likely increase further the tension in Jerusalem and the West Bank, with present tactics such as demolition condemned by human rights watchdogs as collective punishment.

"Punishing the families of suspects by destroying their homes is collective punishment and is prohibited by international law," Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

"Authorities must not trample over the rights of Palestinians through collective punishments and other heavy-handed measures in order to restore security," said the watchdog's Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther.

The synagogue attackers, named as Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, were killed by Israeli police.

The attack began shortly before 7am (0500 GMT) at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof area, a stronghold of the religious Zionist Shas Party, on the western outskirts of the city. 

The worshippers killed had dual nationalities; three were American-Israelis and the fourth was British-Israeli.

The father of a man accused of killing Palestinian 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, whose death in July set off the months of tension that Jerusalem has witnessed, worshipped at the synagogue targeted, Israeli newspaper Maariv said.

It was initially reported that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) had claimed the attack, but the group later denied that, stating that they had merely supported those who carried it out.

"We bless the operation and the two young men who carried it out," said Jamil Mizher, the leader of the PFLP, to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"But we have not received any confirmation that it was planned by the PFLP, even though it was consistent with the history of the PFLP," Mizher said.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon vowed Israel would hunt down those who sent the perpetrators "wherever they are and in whatever way necessary, both inside and outside Israel's borders."

The Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Ahronovitch pledged to ease controls on carrying weapons for self-defence in a move which would apply to anyone licensed to carry a gun, such as private security guards and off-duty army officers. 

Palestinian bus driver death

The violence comes after weeks of tension - see gallery

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said the attack was a response to the death earlier this week of a Palestinian bus driver from east Jerusalem who was found hanged inside his vehicle. Israeli Police said there was no evidence of foul play, blaming the bus driver's death on suicide.

But colleagues and family said there were signs of violence on his body, claiming he was murdered.

And the Palestinian pathologist who attended the post-mortem also ruled out suicide, suggesting he may have been drugged then strangled, the family's lawyer said. 

Thousands attended his funeral late on Monday, some of them calling for revenge. 

Netanyahu blames Abbas

Netanyahu has said the attack was the result of "incitement" by Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"This is a direct result of incitement led by Hamas and Abu Mazen, incitement that the international community has been irresponsibly ignoring," he said in a statement.

etanyahu has repeatedly accused Abbas of encouraging deadly attacks after the Palestinian leader called for people to take action following tensions at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound. 

However, Palestinian analysts said that recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis pointed to the marginalisation of figures like Abbas, and established political parties.

"[The attacks] reflect a lack of Palestinian trust in their political organisations ... there is now a gap left behind by these groups, which has led to individuals conducting operations of their own accord," said Adel Shadid, a political analyst.

Mahmoud Muhareb, a professor of politics at al-Quds University near east Jerusalem, said that the attacks were a legacy of Israel failing to take responsibility for their actions.

"Israel is preparing a new round of collective punishment [for the Palestinians] ... it refuses to accept responsibility for fueling the situation in east Jerusalem," Muhareb said.

Months of tensions at the shrine appeared to have abated late last week following talks in Amman between Netanyahu, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordan's King Abdullah II. 

Kerry condemned Tuesday's attack on the synagogue as an "act of pure terror and senseless brutality," and called on the Palestinian leadership to denounce it. 

In Gaza, Hamas and its smaller rival Islamic Jihad said it was Israel that had sparked the attack as result of the bus driver's death and the tensions at the mosque compound.