Kerry condemns Jerusalem synagogue attack
LONDON (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry angrily condemned Tuesday’s deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue and demanded that the Palestinian leadership take immediate steps to end incitement to violence as Israeli-Palestinian tensions soared.
“This morning in Jerusalem, Palestinians attacked Jews who were praying in a synagogue,” Kerry said shortly after Israeli authorities reported that two Palestinians had stormed the synagogue, attacking worshippers with knives, axes and guns, and killed four people before being killed in a shootout with police.
Kerry spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express condolences and offer support. Following a meeting in London with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Kerry spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and expressed support for his statement condemning the attacks while urging him to do everything possible to de-escalate tension. He agreed to stay in close touch with both leaders.
Netanyahu vowed to “respond harshly” to the attack. Abbas said in a statement that he “condemns the killing of the worshippers” while adding that Israel should stop “the invasion” of a key Jerusalem holy site and halt “incitement” by Israeli ministers.
“Innocent people who had come to worship died in the sanctuary of a synagogue,” Kerry said, his voice quavering. “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. This violence has no place anywhere, particularly after the discussion that we just had the other day in Amman.”
Last week, Kerry traveled to the Jordanian capital and won commitments from Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II, who serves as the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, to reduce tensions.
Kerry, who spoke Tuesday before, noted that Israel had acted to calm the situation by easing age restrictions on Muslim worshippers at the al-Aqsa Mosque. He did not mention any steps taken by the Palestinians despite what had been described in Amman as a pledge from Abbas to rein in incitement.
“To have this kind of act, which is a pure result of incitement, of calls for ‘days of rage,’ of just irresponsibility, is unacceptable,” Kerry said. “The Palestinian leadership must condemn this and they must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement ... and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path. This simply has no place in human behavior and we need to hear from leaders who are going to lead their people to a different place.”