President Obama condemned the Palestinian terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue today that left four dead, saying in a statement that “there is and can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians.”
Three of the victims — Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William Levine, and Mosheh Twersky — were U.S. citizens with dual Israeli citizenship.
“The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the victims and families of all those who were killed and injured in this horrific attack and in other recent violence,” Obama said. “At this sensitive moment in Jerusalem, it is all the more important for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to work cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence, and seek a path forward towards peace.”
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he told Secretary of State John Kerry “this horrendous terror attack in a house of worship is the direct result of President Abbas’s campaign of incitement.”
The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement saying, “The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it.”
Kerry, meeting in London with his British counterpart, told reporters he was delayed by his call with Netanyahu.
“To have this kind of act, which is a pure result of incitement of calls for days of rage, of just an irresponsibility, is unacceptable,” Kerry said. “So the Palestinian leadership must condemn this and they must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.”
“Our hearts go out to all Israelis for the atrocity of this event and for all the reminders of history that come with it. This is — simply has no place in human behavior, and we need to hear from leaders who are going to lead their people to a different place.”
Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said two terrorists armed with knives and axes attacked worshippers at a synagogue in the Har nof neighborhood of Jerusalem. Police responded to the scene and shot both.
One police officer was in critical condition from a shootout with the terrorists, though, Rosenfeld said.
He said police units were providing security for this morning’s funeral for the four rabbis murdered in the attack. “Thousands of people attending,” Rosenfeld tweeted.
Seven were injured in the attack, he said.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the recent attacks and directed that enforcement against those who incite toward terrorist attacks be significantly increased.”
In a tweet, the prime minister promised to respond “with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were met by reprehensible murderers.”
Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told CNN that Abbas “must decide which side of the divide he’s on.”
“On one side you’ve got ISIS, Hamas, al Qaeda, people responsible for the most brutal attacks, the most heinous atrocities against innocent civilians. On the other side you’ve got Israel and Egypt and Jordan and other moderate countries,” Regev said.
“When you have an atrocity like this, you can unfortunately, give a motivation to other like-minded people. So we’ve got to make sure there are no copycat attacks,” he said of the need to beef up security in the aftermath. “We also, to be frank, want to make sure that there’s no hothead on the Israeli side who decides he wants to take the law into his own hands and conduct a vigilante counterattack.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said the “massacre in a house of worship while innocent people prayed is absolutely horrifying and unconscionable.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed and injured,” Gillibrand said. “Those responsible for these heinous and cold-blooded murders must be held accountable.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he was “deeply saddened and alarmed” by the attacks and vowed to stand with the Jewish state.
“These men of faith were cruelly murdered as they were worshiping in their synagogue in Har Nof,” Paul said. “I vow to stand with Israel and I will continue to do all I can to protect Americans at home and abroad. This is a horrific act of violence that should be universally condemned. We must demand that Palestinian leaders stop the incitement, which they have committed in word and in deed. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel.”
“The senseless targeting of innocent civilians has to be stopped; it is unacceptable under any circumstances,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Ma.), adding Israelis have “endured far too many of these brutal assaults.”
This is the synagogue in Jerusalem, where Jewish worshippers were murdered by terrorists today during prayer. pic.twitter.com/sR10iIXoZk
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) November 18, 2014