Almotamar.net, Google News
- At least nine people were killed Thursday night and nine others injured when a Palestinian gunman opened fire on students at a rabbinical seminary in Jerusalem, the first attack in the city for more than three years. The gunman was among the dead.
The attacker, wearing a grey jumper and jeans, was later identified by police as Jabel Mukaber, a resident of Arab East Jerusalem. He had walked through the Mercaz Harav seminary’s main gate and entered the library, carrying an assault rifle and a pistol in a small cardboard box.
David Simchon, head of the seminary, said that the students had been preparing a celebration for the new month in the Jewish calendar, which includes the holiday of Purim. Witnesses described terrifying scenes during the shooting, with students jumping out the windows of the building to escape. It was at this point that one of the students, Yitzhak Dadon, took aim. “I lay on the roof of the study hall, cocked my gun and waited for him. He came out of the library spraying automatic fire,” said Mr Dadon, an army reservist.
“He came to the entrance and I shot him twice in the head,” he said. A soldier then killed the gunman with a rifle, Mr Dadon added.
The shooting at the seminary was the most serious attack in Jerusalem since September 2004, when two police officers were killed and at least 16 people injured after a bag packed with explosives was detonated at a bus stop. Between 2001 and 2004, at the height of the second Palestinian intifada, Israel’s biggest city was a frequent target of Palestinian attacks, including suicide bombings on buses.
The seminary, which was founded 80 years ago by Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, is associated with the Jewish settler movement in the West Bank. Most of the students are 12–25 years of age.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station claimed that the attack had been carried out by the previously unknown Phalange of Free Men of Galilee – Groups of the Martyr Imad Mughnieh and Martyrs of Gaza.
Imad Mughnieh was a top Hezbollah commander assassinated in a bombing on February 12, for which the Islamist organisation blamed Israel and threatened to exact revenge.
Israeli police have been on heightened alert throughout the country this week amid fears that Arab fury at the ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip could spill over and spark a third intifada. Israel’s Operation Warm Winter in Gaza left more than 120 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers dead. Israeli troops withdrew on Monday, though the air force continued strikes against suspected rocket launchers.
“We have been waiting for the violence to start again and we knew it was only a matter of time until this false peace ended,” said a woman who lives opposite Mercaz Harav. Store owners in Jerusalem were planning to close up early for the weekend, while police prepared to put an additional 5,000 officers on the streets and increased their presence in the Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.
The attack came a day after the Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, persuaded Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, to return to peace talks with Israel. Mr Abbas condemned last night’s shooting.