Palestinian terrorist shoots 7 dead in ‘murderous rampage’ near Jerusalem synagogue
Police kill the lone gunman, who fled scene of Shabbat eve attack in Neve Yaakov neighborhood, opened fire on officers; celebrations in West Bank, Gaza; IDF bolsters forces
Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.
Seven people were shot and killed and at least three others were wounded in a terror shooting attack near a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood, police and medics said Friday night.
According to police, the terrorist arrived by car at 8:13 p.m. in the Jewish East Jerusalem neighborhood and opened fire at people outside the synagogue and other passersby.
He then fled the scene by car toward the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina — several hundred meters away — where, about five minutes later, he encountered officers who were called to the scene.
Police said the terrorist — a resident of East Jerusalem — was shot dead after he exited the car and opened fire on the officers while trying to escape on foot.
A handgun used in the attack was seized.
According to Channel 12 news, the terrorist first shot an elderly woman in the street, then encountered a motorcycle rider and shot him, before reaching the Ateret Avraham synagogue and opening fire at people outside.
The first Magen David Adom medic to arrive at the scene, Fadi Dekidek, said: “It was a very serious incident. We saw a woman and four men lying on the street. All had gunshot wounds and no signs of life.”
Magen David Adom said its medics declared five victims dead at the scene, and another two victims were declared dead at hospitals in Jerusalem.
Speaking to reporters from the scene, police commissioner Kobi Shabtai said the attack was one of the worst Israel had seen in years.
“The terrorist shot at everyone he encountered. He got out of the car and began a murderous rampage with a handgun,” Shabtai said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking after visiting the scene, called the attack “one of the most severe we have known in years.”
“Our hearts are with the families. I commend the police officers who took action so quickly,” Netanyahu said. “We must act with determination and composure. I call on people not to take the law into their own hands.”
He said the cabinet would convene on Saturday, adding, “We have decided on several immediate steps that will begin tonight.”
The police officer who shot the terrorist met with Netanyahu at the scene.
“The vehicle stopped, the terrorist pulled out his weapon,” the officer said. “I kept moving fast in his direction and closed in on him while he was firing at us.”
“We stopped the patrol car, pulled out our weapons, the terrorist crossed to the other side. We fired on him and he fell. We moved in and saw that he was still moving and trying to turn around his weapon. We neutralized him,” the officer said.
Bystander video published by Channel 12 was said to show the shootout between the police and the terrorist.
תיעוד: רגע ניטרול המחבל בפיגוע בירושלים
השוטר שניטרל את המחבל סיפר: "הוא ירה עלינו תוך כדי ריצה. אחרי שירינו עליו הוא ניסה לקחת את הנשק שלו"@sapirlipkin pic.twitter.com/J85Zi7QiLU
— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) January 27, 2023
With seven killed, the shooting in Jerusalem was the deadliest terror attack since 2011, when terrorists crossed into Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing eight Israelis. It was the deadliest Palestinian terror attack since 2008, when a gunman from East Jerusalem killed eight Israeli students at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in the capital.
MDA said the dead were five men, aged 20, 25, 30, 50, and 60, and two women, aged 60 and 70.
The victims were not immediately named.
The wounded victims included a 15-year-old boy in moderate-to-serious condition, a 24-year-old man in moderate condition, and a 60-year-woman, also in moderate condition.
The victims had been taken to the Hadassah Mount Scopus and Shaare Zedek hospitals.
Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Turgeman, speaking to reporters at the scene, said the terrorist had acted alone.
Dozens of officers were dispatched to the scene, police said.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who is in charge of police, arrived at the scene of the attack, was briefed by police officers, and later accompanied Netanyahu when the prime minister arrived. Citizens at the scene shouted various comments at the minister; some called out “Death to terrorists.”
“It’s on your watch!” one man cried. “Let’s see what you do now.”
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who was in the United States for a personal trip, was to head back to Israel on Friday night following the attack, his office said.
Netanyahu held an assessment with top security officials, before heading to the scene of the attack.
Following the assessment, IDF chief Herzi Halevi issued instructions to bolster forces in the West Bank and along its security barrier, and to prepare for a potential escalation in the region.
Senior police officials told the Kan public broadcaster they would bolster forces across the country and especially in Jerusalem. They also said they were concerned about possible “price tag” revenge attacks against Arabs.
Local residents told Channel 12 news that it took 20 minutes for the police to arrive. “It’s a disgrace,” one anguished man said.
Police responded to the accusation by saying their records showed officers had arrived at the scene and killed the terrorist within five minutes of the first reports of gunfire.
Shalom Borohov, a barber who lives near the synagogue, told AFP that after hearing gunshots he “went down to help people.”
“I saw the terrorist arriving with his car. He stopped in the middle of the junction, and shot from his car,” continuing to shoot as people came to the scene, he said.
The terrorist was named by the Shin Bet security agency as Alqam Khayri, 21, a resident of East Jerusalem with no prior terror-related offenses.
Police were reported to have been operating in the neighborhood of at-Tur, where Khayri reportedly lived. Palestinian media said the gunman’s father was summoned by police for questioning.
اسم منفذ العملية خيري علقم (و ليس العكس) 21 عاما من القدس pic.twitter.com/Bn5OJGqlrx
— يونس الزعتري #عين_على_العدو (@YounesZaatari) January 27, 2023
Palestinian media reported that celebrations were held in the Gaza Strip and in several Palestinian cities in the West Bank following the deadly attack.
تغطية صحفية: "#صورة من الاحتفالات في مدينة نابلس بعد عملية القدس" pic.twitter.com/pkWebQ2as7
— المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام (@PalinfoAr) January 27, 2023
Friday’s deadly attack came following days of violence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Tensions have increased dramatically since Thursday morning, when an Israel Defense Forces raid in the West Bank against a terrorist cell left nine Palestinians dead — most of them gunmen and members of the cell, though at least one civilian was also killed.
The IDF said Thursday’s operation in the Jenin refugee camp was necessary to foil imminent attack plans by a local Islamic Jihad terror cell. The group had primed explosives and firearms, according to the IDF.
Hamas praised Friday’s attack as a response to Thursday’s IDF operation, but no terror group took responsibility for it.
Thursday overnight saw rocket fire from Palestinian terror groups in Gaza and Israeli retaliatory air strikes, though both sides appeared intent on avoiding an escalation into a full-scale war.
Tensions were also high in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount on Friday, though Muslim prayers proceeded without issue.
AFP contributed to this report.