State Department: 'Our thoughts are with the Israeli people'

Washington, UN, UAE, many others condemn ‘heinous, tragic’ Jerusalem terror shooting

Lapid says attack that left 7 dead is heartbreaking; police minister visits scene of killing spree, says government must respond

Security forces and rescue forces at the scene of a deadly terror shooting in Jerusalem's Neve Yaakov neighborhood, January 27, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Security forces and rescue forces at the scene of a deadly terror shooting in Jerusalem's Neve Yaakov neighborhood, January 27, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israeli allies around the world as well as Israeli political figures condemned a Palestinian terror attack Friday evening at a Jerusalem synagogue that left at least seven dead and several others wounded, with many of them highlighting that it took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

At the start of the US State Department’s daily press briefing, the deputy spokesman opened by noting the attack in Jerusalem.

“This is absolutely horrific. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to those killed and injured in this heinous act of violence. We condemn this apparent terror attack in the strongest terms,” Vedant Patel said.

“Our commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad and we are in direct touch with our Israeli partners and our thoughts are with the Israeli people,” he added.

Patel said he did not believe the attack would impact Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned visit to the region early next week. Blinken’s trip will come as CIA chief William Burns reportedly holds talks in Israel and the West Bank and less than two weeks after US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also visited.

Condemning the shooting, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted that it “tragically occurred on International Holocaust Remembrance Day when the memory of those lost in the Holocaust is commemorated around the world.”

“The United States will extend our full support to the government and people of Israel. Accordingly, the president has directed his national security team to engage immediately with Israeli counterparts to offer all appropriate support in assisting the wounded and bringing the perpetrators of this horrible crime to justice,” the White House press secretary added in a statement.

US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides also denounced the shooting, expressing shock and disgust at the “horrific act of violence, as did the EU’s envoy to the Jewish state and the French embassy, among others.

A statement from a spokesperson for UN chief Antonio Guterres said the secretary-general “strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack by a Palestinian perpetrator outside a synagogue in Jerusalem” and “extends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a prompt recovery to those injured.

“It is particularly abhorrent that the attack occurred at a place of worship, and on the very day we commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. There is never any excuse for acts of terrorism. They must be clearly condemned and rejected by all,” the statement added.

It also said Guterres is “deeply worried” by escalating violence and called “to exercise utmost restraint.”

Tor Wennesland, the UN’s envoy for Middle East peace, similarly condemned the “horrific” attack.

“There is never any excuse for such acts, which must be clearly condemned and rejected by all,” he tweeted.

Security and rescue forces at the scene of a shooting attack in Neve Yaakov, Jerusalem, January 27, 2023 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “To attack worshippers at a synagogue on Holocaust Memorial Day, and during Shabbat, is horrific. We stand with our Israeli friends.”

The UAE Foreign Ministry also condemned the “criminal” attack and expressed its rejection of all forms of violence.

The ministry offered its “sincere condolences to the Israeli government and its people and its sympathy to the families of the victims while wishing a speedy recovery to all of the injured.”

Turkey’s foreign ministry also expressed concern that Friday’s attack, along with other recent violent incidents in the region, will lead to a new “spiral of violence.”

“We strongly condemn the terror attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem where many people lost their lives. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims, the Israeli government and people. We wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” Turkey said.

Foreign affairs officials from Poland, Germany, Sweden, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Italy and Japan also condemned the attack and offered condolences.

Following an assessment with top military officials, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant released a statement condemning the attack. “The security establishment under my leadership will act with a strong hand and without compromise against terror and will reach all those involved in the attack,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Benjamin Netanyahu was receiving updates on the deadly attack at the Neve Yaakov neighborhood and was due to confer with top security officials. He later visited the scene, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir also arriving.

Netanyahu 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 religious Ben Gvir declined to speak to reporters, citing Shabbat, as a number of people began chanting “death to terrorists” — which the far-right lawmaker himself encouraged some to say after one onlooker yelled “death to leftists.”

In response to a man who shouted “this was on your watch,” Ben Gvir said, “The burden of proof is on us,” adding that the government must respond.

“A difficult and painful Shabbat evening. The heart breaks from these difficult images. Terror in a synagogue, a vile terrorist who murders in cold blood,” opposition leader Yair Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party, wrote on Twitter.

He expressed condolences to the families of those killed and expressed confidence security forces would track down anyone who helped the attacker.

“Terror cannot be allowed to raise its head,” he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visit the scene of a deadly terror shooting in Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood, January 27, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman called the attack “a shocking massacre.”

“The government must exact a heavy price from the perpetrators of terror attacks and those who dispatch them,” he tweeted.

Labor party chief Merav Michaeli said: “My heart is with the wounded and the families of the murdered. We must fight this terror with a strong hand and without compromise.”

MK Mansour Abbas said his Islamist Ra’am party condemns “any attack in which innocent citizens are murdered.

“I’m convinced that this act and others like it will distance the possibility to find a solution to the conflict and achieve the vision of peace, mutual security, cooperation and tolerance in the Holy Land,” he said in a statement, while also calling for restraint.

A police vehicle is seen outside the Ateret Avraham synagogue after a deadly terror shooting in Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood, January 27, 2023. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

According to police, the assailant, an East Jerusalem resident opened fire after arriving by car at a synagogue, before fleeing to a nearby Palestinian neighborhood. Police said he was killed after opening fire at officers he encountered there.

Friday’s deadly attack follows 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.

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 went ahead without issue.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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