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Israeli Security Officials: 'Risk of Copy-Cat Attacks Running High After Jerusalem Massacre Of Eight Yeshiva Students'

Palestinians In The Gaza Strip Celebrating On The Streets

National Security Alert Mainly In Jerusalem

Zaka volunteers covering the bodies of murdered Israelis (Photo: Zaka)

Israeli security forces have gone on heightened alert after a lone Palestinian terrorist shot dead eight students at a yeshiva religious seminary in Jerusalem. Eight other students were wounded, three of them seriously. IsraCast quotes Israeli intelligence sources as saying: 'The main concern now is that of a copy-cat effect - that other terrorists will emulate the terror attack'.

Eight-thirty at night - scores of young Jewish students are at prayer and study inside the big Mercaz HaRav, the big yeshiva religious seminary located near the entrance of Jerusalem. A Palestinian terrorist, dressed in jeans, arrives in a vehicle. He is carrying a black car board carton. At the entrance to the religious seminary the terrorist takes a Kalashnikov automatic rifle out of the carton along with a number of loaded magazines. What happened at the yeshiva entrance is not clear - there is at least one security guard at the entrance of all public buildings in Israel. The fact is that the terrorist was able to reach the crowded library and spray the students with his automatic rifle. Changing several magazines and shouting' Allah Akbar - God is great' he then moved from one student to the other shooting them in the head. Those students who could fled in panic, others took refuge inside the cupboards where Torah scrolls are stored.

Within minutes the lone terrorist fired hundreds of bullets - nineteen students either dead or wounded were spread over the blood splattered floor amid their bullet-riddled prayer books and Torah scrolls. At first, students inside think it's fireworks - the Purim festival is just a few days away. But after the first bursts, they realize they are under fire from inside their yeshiva. The terrorist then heads for the second floor to continue the massacre where some students are jumping from windows. On the way, he is met by a yeshiva student with a private handgun who takes cover and spots the killer. He fires twice at the terrorist possibly hitting him in the head. The terrorist who is firing continuously then staggers before being shot dead by a young IDF paratroop captain who lives nearby and on hearing the shooting he rushes to the yeshiva armed with his M-16. Himself, a graduate of the yeshiva, the officer opens fire killing the attacker. The swift action of the two young men who risked their lives by responding immediately undoubtedly saved the lives of many other students. Within minutes dozens of ambulances and security forces were rushing to the scene - their blaring sirens could be heard throughout Israel's capital city. After months without terror attacks, Jerusalemites were getting used to normal living without fear of the past atrocities and suicide attacks. The search was also on for possible accomplices who might still be at large.

How did the armed terrorist manage to reach and the enter the crowded religious seminary in Kiryat Moshe at the heart of Jerusalem? He was an Arab from the East Jerusalem quarter of Jabel Mukaber and as such he carried a blue Israeli identity card. There are no checkpoints or roadblocks between the predominantly east Jerusalem and the Jewish western part of the capital. However, the West Bank security around Jerusalem has not been completed due to the dismay of security officials. Although it would not have prevented the terrorist from East Jerusalem from traveling unhindered to the yeshiva, it would prevent the unhampered contact between Palestinian terror organizations on the West Bank and Arab Jerusalemites. Without Israel's West Bank checkpoints, how easy it would be for the terrorists to carry out similar attacks from their West Bank bases. Israeli security forces conduct an around the clock campaign against Hamas and the other terror groups on the West Bank and have smashed numerous terror cells before they could carry out their attacks. This counter terror campaign has been so effective that a special bus patrol was cancelled in Jerusalem and the terror threat was no longer a threat for most Israelis. Last year, only 13 Israelis were killed in terror attacks - that's far below the four hundred or so who are killed in traffic accidents. But this latest Jerusalem attack has obviously come as a shock and security officials will have to go back to the drawing board. In addition to identifying the killer, the vehicle that transported him to the yeshiva has also been found. The question is whether he was acting on his own or was sent by a terror organization. He was said to have been known as a terror suspect. The Israeli police say there was no specific alert about the attack, just the usual warnings which were heightened after the Gaza fire-up.

The fatalities (left to right):

  • Yochai Lipschitz, 18 , of Jerusalem
  • Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16 , of Shiloh
  • Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19 , of Kochav Hashahar
  • Neriah Cohen, 15 , of Jerusalem
  • Roey Roth, 18 , of Elkana
  • Segev Pniel Avihayil, 15 , of Neveh Daniel
  • Avraham David Moses, 16 , of Efrat
  • Maharata Trunoch, 26 , of Ashdod

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued his standard condemnation of all attacks on civilians be they Israeli or Palestinian. In Gaza, there were the usual celebrations with gunmen firing their weapons in the air and handing out candy over the killing of Israelis. U.S. President George W. Bush telephoned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to extend his condolences. At the U.N. Security Council met in special session but refused to issue a statement condemning the massacre in Jerusalem. Libya demanded a condemnation of Israel's operation into Gaza to halt the rocketing of Sderot must also be included. For a change, the Russian ambassador actually stood up for Israel asking: ' If the Jerusalem attack was not an act of terror what is?' And the American representative said there should be no comparison with Israel's counter terror operation into Gaza even if Palestinian civilians had been accidentally caught in the crossfire with Hamas terrorists.

Palestinians in Gaza celebrating the murder

And speaking of Gaza, the IDF uncovered a mosque that was used both as an arsenal for rockets and explosives as well as a firing position by the terrorists. Israel is now debating whether or not it is moral, legal and effective to evacuate Palestinian civilians and destroy building which are used as cover by Hamas and other terror groups. The case of the deliberate Palestinian attack on Jewish students at prayer highlights the different attitudes of Jews and Muslim's in the conflict. While Israel agonizes over taking more drastic steps to protect its civilians and soldiers the Palestinians exploit their own civilians as human shields - the terrorists also launch their rockets from next to Palestinian schools and hospitals which they use as cover. Another recent example is how several Palestinian kids were killed and injured by an Israeli shell when they were sent by the terrorists to retrieve their rocket launchers from a launch site that was detected by Israel.

Palestinians in Gaza celebrating the murder

Inside Israel, the political parties reacted accordingly. The left wing said that despite the massacre, Israel should react calmly and try and accelerate the political contacts with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The right wing demanded that Israel must take off the gloves and call off the negotiations with Abbas which were no more than a farce.

After Israel's two and a half day operation into Gaza, the government decided to step up its strikes inside Gaza but ruled out the reoccupation after Israel pulled out over two years ago. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also reassured U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week that he would continue his meetings with Mahmoud Abbas. Meanwhile, the Qassams keep falling on Sderot and the Grads on Ashqelon, and wherever possible the terrorists will exploit every weak link in the Israeli chain of defense. In short - it looks like more of the same even more so. The first test will be at the joint Muslim - Jewish site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Israeli authorities guarantee freedom of worship for the Muslim Friday prayers while trying to prevent more violence by limiting Muslim males below the age of forty-five.

Gaza Celebration of Terrorist Attack on Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva


Photos: S. Meshi, Zaka

David Essing

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