Israeli police have confirmed that four people have been killed following an attack on a Synagogue in Jerusalem.
Reports say that two men from East Jerusalem stormed the place of worship armed with axes, knives and guns.
At least four Israelis have been killed and the two Palestinian attackers shot dead at the scene.
The attack happened at 0700hrs this morning as worshippers were at morning prayer when two Palestinians entered the synagogue in the Har Nof region.
Witnesses told of their horror with one man identifying himself as Yossi telling Israeli Channel 2 TV, “I tried to escape. The man with the knife approached me. There was a chair and table between us … my prayer shawl got caught. I left it there and escaped,”
Yosef Posternak, who was at the synagogue at the time of the attack, told Israel Radio that some 25 worshipers were inside when the attackers entered.
“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,” he said.
Eyewitness Sarah Abrahams, who lives in the neighbourhood said: “There were people running from the synagogue, and a man sitting on the pavement covered in blood, it looked like he had been stabbed.”
“Two people came out with their faces half missing, looking like they’d been attacked with knives.”
According to The Times of Israel, one of the worshipers said the two terrorists shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the attack, and entered the synagogue without their faces covered.
The attack will inevitably lead to increased tensions between both sides; hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews were seen pressed up against the police tape after the incident, with a few chanting “Death to terrorists.”
The attack as been condemned by leaders worldwide.
The US Ambassador to Israel described the terrorist attack as “a barbaric new low in the sad and outrageous history of such attacks.”
“Murdering worshippers at prayer in a synagogue is an act of pure, unadulterated evil.”
The US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express condolences and offer support.
He spoke after a meeting in Westminster this morning with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, saying, “Innocent people who had come to worship died in the sanctuary of a synagogue. They were hatcheted, hacked and murdered in that holy place in an act of pure terror and senseless brutality and murder. I call on Palestinians at every single level of leadership to condemn this in the most powerful terms.”
Mr Hammond told reporters,
“Both sides in this conflict need to do everything possible to de escalate the situation and reduce the tension we’ve seen in Jerusalem over the past few weeks, which is extremely dangerous for both Palestinian and Jewish communities in that area.”
His words follow a warning by the Israeli Prime Minister Benamin Netenyahu, who blamed the attack on incitement by the Islamic militant group Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which he said the international community had been “irresponsibly ignoring”.
He vowed that Israel will “respond harshly” to the murders.
Palestinian President Mahomoud Abbas joined voices condemning the attacks, with a statement released from his office saying:
“The Palestinian presidency has always condemned the killing of civilians on either side, and condemns today the killing of worshippers at a synagogue in west Jerusalem.”
“We also condemn the violence, no matter what the reasons behind it, and call to stop interference at Al-Aqsa [the Temple Mount] and the incitement by Israeli ministers.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “appalled” by the attacks. Writing on twitter, he said:
I’m appalled by today’s horrific attack on worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue. My thoughts are with the victims’ families.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) November 18, 2014
But Hamas said the killings were a response to to the death of a Palestinian bus driver who was found hanged.
“The attack in Jerusalem is a reaction to the crime and execution of the martyr al-Ramouni and a reaction to the crimes of the occupation, the Hamas movement is calling for more revenge attacks,” is said on its official Al-Aksa TV.
There have been reports that a British citizen and American may be among those killed but the Foreign Office have so far not responded.