JERUSALEM — Four Israelis were killed in a terror attack during morning prayers at a Jerusalem synagogue.
Two Palestinian assailants entered the Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov synagogue in the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof Tuesday morning and attacked worshippers at the morning prayer service with a gun, axes and knives.
At least eight worshippers also were injured, some seriously. Three of those killed are dual American and Israeli citizens.
Rabbi Moshe Twersky has been identified as one of the four people.
Twersky, 60, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, was the son of rabbi and author Rabbi Yitzhak Twersky of Boston, grandson of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a founder of Modern Orthodoxy known as The Rav.
Police killed both of the assailants, who have been identified as residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. Police reportedly began searching the homes of the assailants after the attack. Palestinian reports say the assailants, who are cousins, are relatives of terrorists released in the exchange to return Gilad Shalit.
The assailants, identified as cousins Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations praised the attack, and said it was in retaliation for the death of a Palestinian bus driver who was found late Sunday night hanged in his bus at a terminal in Jerusalem. Hamas called for more such attacks
An autopsy Monday at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv found that the death was not criminally related, Israel Police said. The body was returned to the family. However, a Palestinian pathologist said in a separate report that there were signs of violence on his body, and the family said he was killed by “settlers.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a security consultation for Tuesday afternoon following the attack.
He blamed the attack on “incitement led by Hamas and Abu Mazen” – the nom de guerre of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and blamed the international community for “irresponsibly ignoring” such incitement.
“We will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were met by reprehensible murderers,” Netanyahu said following the terror attack.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is London, called Netanyahu to offer his condolences. “This simply has no place in human behavior,” Kerry told reporters, and called for Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack.
“Jerusalem bows its head in pain and sorrow on this difficult morning. Jerusalem residents peacefully praying in a synagogue in the heart of Jerusalem were cruelly slaughtered in cold blood while wearing their prayer shawls,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement. “We will not surrender to terror. We will stand strong and defend our city from those who try to disturb the peace of our capital.”
Twersky was the dean of the Torat Moshe Yeshiva, an advanced level English-speaking yeshiva, attended mostly by post-high school students from English-speaking countries.
He was the first victim to be identified. At least eight worshippers also were injured, some seriously, including two police officers who engaged in a shootout with the assailants, who were killed at the scene.
The other three victims were named early Tuesday afternoon. Aryeh Kupinsky, 43, and Kalman Zeev Levine, 55, residents of Har Nof who were born in the United States, also were killed in the attack. The fourth victim was Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 68, an immigrant from Britain.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terror attack.
Shortly after the attack, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, called on Abbas and other Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack, which he called “an act of pure terror and senseless brutality and murder.”
Abbas’ office said in a statement that the presidency always denounces the killing of civilians by any party, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported, and denounced Tuesday’s attack.
“The presidency also denounces all violent acts no matter who their source is, and demands an end to the ongoing incursions into the Al-Aksa Mosque and the provocative acts by Israeli settlers as well as incitement by some Israeli ministers,” the statement added.
The armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror organization in a statement posted on its Facebook page and in other social media claimed responsibility for the attack and called it a “normal reaction to the crimes of the occupation.”
Police reportedly began searching the homes of the assailants after the attack and arrested some family members. Palestinian reports say the assailants are relatives of terrorists released in the exchange to return Gilad Shalit.