Witnesses and first responders to Friday’s Jerusalem terror attack described panic, fear and confusion during and after the shooting that killed seven and wounded at least three outside a synagogue.
A distraught witness described the massacre to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene, saying the terrorist had nearly killed him. The shooter is believed to have waited outside the synagogue and opened fire on worshipers as they left after Shabbat services.
“I came outside and I saw people shouting, people running, two people were on the ground, and over there another one was on the ground,” he said, gesturing in the direction of the casualties, struggling to speak. “The bastard was standing in front of me with a weapon, almost killed me. I don’t know how he didn’t kill me. I crawled back into the house.”
“If I had been armed I could have prevented three or four deaths. I’m not armed. They won’t let me have a weapon,” the unidentified witness said, adding that five members of his family, including his brother, had been killed in a terror attack in Jerusalem in 2002. “I can never forget it. It needs to stop.”
“We don’t want to take the law into our own hands,” he said in footage broadcast by Channels 12 and 13.
Ben Gvir told him, “I hope that soon we’ll change the policy for weapons. There need to be weapons for more civilians.”
“We’re strong and we need to respond to this,” said Ben Gvir, a far-right lawmaker who heads the Otzma Yehudit party.
עדות קורעת לב מזירת הפיגוע – פרץ בבכי לשר בן גביר: "איבדתי חמישה בני משפחה בפיגועים. עם ישראל חי" | צפו בקטע pic.twitter.com/YVJ23TSdtw
— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) January 27, 2023
Another resident of the neighborhood who was in the area described the scene to Channel 12.
“We heard a volley of gunfire, ambulances, police cars, and we understood it was a terror attack,” he said, adding that they would continue to go about routine in the neighborhood. “We’re Jerusalemites, we’re accustomed to terror attacks. We have calmed down our children.”
A neighborhood resident identified as Ariel said he at first thought the shots were celebratory gunfire.
“You know ahead of time that Arabs are celebrating, you hear gunfire on an almost daily basis. At a certain point, we understood that something was wrong. Police cars and ambulances arrived and told us to get away from the area,” he told Channel 12.
The terrorist was shot dead by police after fleeing the scene of the attack in the capital’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood. He was named by the Shin Bet security agency as Alqam Khayri, 21, a resident of East Jerusalem with no prior terror-related offenses.
One of the police officers who shot the terrorist recounted the incident to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the premier visited the scene of the attack.
“The vehicle stopped, the terrorist pulled out his weapon,” the officer said. “I kept moving fast in his direction and closed in on him while he was firing at us.”
“We stopped the patrol car, pulled out our weapons, the terrorist crossed to the other side. We fired on him and he fell. We moved in and saw that he was still moving and trying to turn around his weapon. We neutralized him,” the officer said.
Some of the first responders said they found people already dead on the scene and had to pass them by to focus on the wounded.
“We got out of the ambulance and started running. We saw four wounded people lying on the street with no vital signs, and unfortunately we weren’t able to help them,” two medics from the Magen David Adom Emergency services organization said in a statement. “We kept going and saw a woman, around 50 years old, fully conscious with bleeding wounds from gunfire on her arm and leg.”
“We immediately stopped the bleeding, brought her into the ambulance and evacuated her to a hospital in stable condition,” they said.
Shalom Borohov, a barber who lives near the synagogue, told AFP that after hearing gunshots he “went down to help people.”
“I saw the terrorist arriving with his car. He stopped in the middle of the junction, and shot from his car,” continuing to shoot as people came to the scene, he said.
Matanel Almalem, an 18-year-old student who lives nearby, told AFP that he ran down to the street after hearing the shooting and saw the gunman in a white Toyota Corolla.
“I heard a lot of shooting,” he said.
Medics said after the attack that the dead were five men, aged 20, 25, 30, 50, and 60, and two women, aged 60 and 70. The victims were not immediately named.
The wounded victims included a 15-year-old boy in moderate-to-serious condition, a 24-year-old man in moderate condition, and a 60-year-woman, also in moderate condition.
With seven killed, the shooting in Jerusalem was the deadliest terror attack since 2011, when terrorists crossed into Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing eight Israelis. It was the deadliest Palestinian terror attack since 2008, when a gunman from East Jerusalem killed eight Israeli students at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in the capital.
Condemnation for the attack and condolences poured in from around the world, including from the US, the UN, the United Arab Emirates and a number of European countries.
Netanyahu, speaking after visiting the scene of the attack, called it “one of the most severe we have known in years.”
“Our hearts are with the families. I commend the police officers who took action so quickly,” Netanyahu said. “We must act with determination and composure. I call on people not to take the law into their own hands.”
He said the cabinet would convene on Saturday, adding, “We have decided on several immediate steps that will begin tonight.”
Friday’s deadly attack came following days of violence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Tensions have increased dramatically since Thursday morning, when an Israel Defense Forces raid in the West Bank against a terrorist cell left nine Palestinians dead — most of them gunmen and members of the cell, though at least one civilian was also killed.
The IDF said Thursday’s operation in the Jenin refugee camp was necessary to foil imminent attack plans by a local Islamic Jihad terror cell. The group had primed explosives and firearms, according to the IDF.
Thursday overnight saw rocket fire from Palestinian terror groups in Gaza and Israeli retaliatory air strikes, though both sides appeared intent on avoiding an escalation into a full-scale war.
News of Friday’s attack sparked widespread celebrations in Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza, with residents shooting off fireworks, lighting bonfires and passing out sweets.
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