A police officer who was critically wounded in Tuesday morning's terror attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood succumbed to his wounds at Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem.
The death toll in the attack rose to five with the death of the police officer.
The officer was identified as Zidan Saif, 30, of the Druse village of Kfar Yanouch in the Galilee. He was the father of a four-month-old baby. He was set to be laid to rest on Wednesday.
The four other victims of the attack were prominent rabbis, including three US-Israeli citizens and one British-Israeli. The attack took place shortly after 7 a.m., when two Arab suspects from Jabel Mukaber in east Jerusalem stormed the Kehilat Bnei Torah Synagogue in Har Nof wielding axes, knives and a pistol, to attack over 30 congregants, police said.
According to witnesses, the terrorists shouted “Allah Akbar!” (God is great), before proceeding to kill and maim their victims.
Rabbi Aryeh Kopinsky, 43, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 68, and Rabbi Calman Levine, 55, all from Har Nof, and Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 59, were identified as among the dead
The killers, identified as Abed Abu Jamal, 22, and Ghassan Muhammad Abu Jamal, 32, were killed in a shootout with police at the synagogue’s entrance. One of the officers involved in the gun fight was shot in the head, while the other was seriously wounded, police said.
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Kopinsky, Levine and Twersky held dual US-Israeli citizenship after making aliya from America. Goldberg, a British-Israeli national, immigrated to Israel from Britain. Funerals for the four rabbis were held Tuesday afternoon.
The seven surviving male victims were rushed to the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem. Two were in critical condition, two sustained serious wounds and one was moderately wounded, while one suffered light wounds, hospital spokespersons said. Hadassah announced late Tuesday night that Saif had succumbed to his wounds.
Dozens of Border Police officers arrived at the scene within minutes and cordoned off the area as hundreds of yeshiva students and residents of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood watched events unfold.
Many continuously fielded phone calls on their smart phones from concerned family and friends who learned of the attack on the news. Others rushed home with small children and locked their doors.
Shaare Zedek had originally received the critically-wounded policeman, but transferred him to Hadassah’s neurosurgery department. SZMC received and treated three more victims, including one with moderate injuries who underwent surgery and two others with light injuries.
United Hatzalah volunteers, who were among the first responders, said the scenes at the synagogues were “one of the cruelest” they had ever witnessed.
Paramedic Yanki Erlich said he bent down to check on the first victim and suddenly heard gunshots fired in his direction. In an attempt to jump to safety from the gunfire, he slipped on a puddle of blood and fell, breaking his leg before dragging himself to safety.
Avi Nefosi, also a paramedic, arrived from around the corner of the synagogue and found himself taking cover behind his car as the gunfight raged overhead and additional police reinforcements raced to the scene.
Magen David Adom paramedic Betzalel Ben Hemo said when he arrived at the scene he immediately began treating the victims. “We found a man outside, fully conscious, with three gunshot wounds,” he said. “We evacuated him from the scene, and asked him to breath slowly.”
The gunshot-wound victim managed to tell Ben Hemo that there are no more terrorists active in the area.
“We rushed him to the Sha’are Tzedek Medical Center,” the paramedic said.
“Unfortunately, we have recently been getting used to these scenes, which remind us of past terror attacks. They are returning with full force,” he added.
By the time the police declared it safe for medical rescue forces to enter the scene, dozens of UH and MDA medics and paramedics rushed inside while helicopters hovered above.
After entering the synagogue and attending to those who needed help, UH physician Dr. Joyce Morrel said she bent down to one of the casualties still lying on the ground and covered him with his prayer shawl.
“As a medic and a resident of the neighborhood I was among the first to get to the scene,” said UH volunteer Eli Pollak. “First I had to hide under my car since shots were still fired. After the all-clear from the police, I could enter the building and see the injured and the bodies, some of whom I knew, still in their prayer shawls and phylacteries.”
Following the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the demolition of the homes of the two terrorists, the most significant operational step taken in the immediate aftermath of the murders.
The directive came at an emergency security consultation he convened in his office with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel Security Agency head Yoram Cohen, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and other top security officials.
In addition to ordering the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who carried out the attack, he also gave orders to move forward with the demolition of the homes of terrorists who carried out recent attacks.
Netanyahu also ordered significantly ratcheting up law enforcement against those guilty of incitement.
Later Tuesday morning, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said nine Arabs were arrested for rioting in Jabel Mukaber.
“Security assessments continue to be carried out and will be implemented throughout the capital,” he said.
Hamas subsequently praised the attack, referring to the killers as hero’s and martyrs.
In an interview on CNN, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor condemned the murders, warning against incitement and calls for days of rage across the territories.
“If you look at today, basically, ordinary Israelis cannot find a sanctuary in a synagogue,” Prosor said. “I have to tell the American people, and everyone else, Israel is on the front line in countering terrorism.”
“If you’re not with us today,” he said, “you'll find terrorism on your doorstep tomorrow.”
In a statement, Barkat also strongly condemned the attack, vowed to continue to fight terrorists and exhorted the international community to also condemn the massacre.
“Jerusalem bows its head in pain and sorrow on this difficult morning,” Barkat said. “Jerusalem residents peacefully praying in a synagogue in the heart of Jerusalem were cruelly slaughtered in cold blood while wearing their prayer shawls. I promise Jerusalem residents that we will continue to fight terror with full force and we will do everything in our power to restore peace and security to Jerusalem.”
The mayor continued: “I call on Israel’s national government and security forces to provide Jerusalem with all of the support necessary to fight terror. I call on the international community to strongly condemn this horrific act.
“We will not surrender to terror. We will stand strong and defend our city from those who try to disturb the peace of our capital,” he added.
Barkat later sent another statement noting that security will be increased in all the capital’s educational institutions, including kindergartens, adding that social workers were sent to help families of the victims and the people who were in the vicinity of the attack.Yaakov Lappin, Ben Hartman and JPost.com staff contributed to this report.
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