At least six people are dead after a brutal terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue in which two attackers went on a violent rampage, shooting victims and swinging axes, authorities say.
Fox News reports four victims have been killed, along with the two perpetrators. Eight others have also been reported injured in the Tuesday morning attack on the synagogue in western Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.
Three of the four victims killed — identified as Aryeh Kupinsky, Kalmen Levin and Moshe Twersky — are said to be Americans. Avraham Shmuel Goldberg is the name of the fourth deceased victim, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Witnesses who were in the synagogue at the time of the attack described it as horrific. Yosef Posternak told The Times of Israel he was in the middle of praying when the two men burst through the doors just after 7 a.m.
He said he saw both men, who were reported to be armed with pistols, axes and meat cleavers, entering the place of worship. In the panic, he said, people threw chairs and other items trying to get away.
“I saw people lying on the floor, blood everywhere. People were trying to fight with (the attackers) but they didn’t have much of a chance,” Posternak said.
The attackers reportedly swung their weapons violently at those inside the synagogue and shot people at point-blank range.
Sarah Abrams, who was taking her morning walk at the time of the attack, described what she saw as victims poured out of the building.
“There were people running from the synagogue, and a man sitting on the pavement covered in blood; it looked like he had been stabbed,” she said. “Two people came out with their faces half missing, looking like they’d been attacked with knives.”
The attackers are said to be Palestinian cousins from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber. They are identified as Ghassan and Oday Abu Jamal. Both men were killed after a brief shootout with police who responded to emergency calls.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “respond harshly” to the attacks that he characterized as a “cruel murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by despicable murderers.”
Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls much of the Gaza Strip praised the attack, claiming it was retaliation for the murder of a Palestinian bus driver, who was found hanged in his bus Sunday. Israeli police said autopsy results indicated the man’s death was a suicide, but that explanation has not been accepted by some.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement condemning the attack but also called on Israeli ministers to stop their “incitement” and called for an end to the “invasion” of a mosque at a contested holy site in the city.