At least four Israelis have been killed and eight injured in what police say was a terrorist attack at a West Jerusalem orthodox synagogue on Harav Shimon Agassi Street. Two men armed with a pistol, axes and knives carried out the attack in the Har Nof neighbourhood during prayers. Police say that the attackers – Palestinians from East Jerusalem – were shot dead. Jerusalem has seen tensions between Israelis and Palestinians soar, with a string of deadly attacks and clashes over a disputed holy site. Israeli media reports suggest there was a shoot-out between the attackers and police who arrived on the scene.
A BBC correspondent also conjectured that this incident was related to the deepening of tensions caused by the ‘disputed holy site.
Earlier this month we focussed on rising tension due to orthodox incursions to the pressure to admit Jewish worshippers to the Temple Mount, where the Al-Aqsa mosque, in the Old City of Jerusalem, is sited.
Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel, quoted in the Middle East Monitor; “Ariel told Israeli radio station Kol Berama – controlled by the Jewish extremist movement Shas – the status quo could not continue at the Al-Aqsa Mosque as it ‘was built in the place of the holiest place for Israel’ “.
Ariel added that the construction of a third Jewish temple at the site is the primary demand of the Torah “as it is at the forefront of Jewish salvation”.
John Reed, in the FT, earlier reported that Jordan withdrew its ambassador from Israel after Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque. A Jordanian/Palestinian-led Islamic trust, which administers the mosque, said that Israeli security forces damaged the mosque’s doors, burnt carpets and broke glass during the confrontation; two people were injured inside the mosque, and Israeli security forces used foam-tipped bullets, stun grenades and tear gas against protesters.
Henriette Al-Khouri says that although anti-Semitism has historically been a European issue, people in the Middle East have continued to pay a heavy price for Europe’s persecution and displacement of Jewish people – in land and blood – since the establishment of Israel (the Friend, 29 August 2014).
Most readers will wholeheartedly and urgently endorse her call to western governments, as well as Israelis, “to find a just and long lasting solution to this enduring and explosive conflict”.