Palestinian President Abbas condemns synagogue attack, calls for end to Israeli 'provocations'


Worshippers Killed in Attack on Synagogue in Jerusalem

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- The Palestinian president has condemned a deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue while at the same time calling for an end to Israeli "provocations" surrounding a contested holy site.

The office of President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement that he "condemns the killing of the worshippers" in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday.

According to the statement, Abbas also says that Israel should stop "the invasion" of a key Jerusalem holy site and halt "incitement" by Israeli ministers.

Israel and the Palestinians have blamed each other for the recent escalation of violence.

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Palestinian President Abbas condemns synagogue attack, calls for end to Israeli 'provocations'
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 19: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Relatives of Palestinian attackers who killed two Isrealis last month are seen at their demolished house on November 19, 2014 in Jerusalem, Isreal. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 19: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Relatives of Palestinian attackers who killed two Isrealis last month are seen at their demolished house on November 19, 2014 in Jerusalem, Isreal. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
JERUSALEM NOVEMBER 19: A car is damaged as Israeli forces demolishes the home of Palestinian AbdelRahman al-Shaludi, blamed for killing two Israelis in a deadly vehicular attack last month, in Silwan neighborhood, east Jerusalem on November 19, 2014. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM NOVEMBER 19: Relatives of Palestinian AbdelRahman al-Shaludi, blamed for killing two Israelis in a deadly vehicular attack last month, inspect the their family home after it was destroyed by Israeli forces in Silwan neighborhood, east Jerusalem on November 19, 2014. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM NOVEMBER 19: Nibraz al-Shaludi (14), sister of Palestinian AbdelRahman al-Shaludi blamed for killing two Israelis in a deadly vehicular attack last month, inspects the damage at her family home after it was destroyed by Israeli forces in Silwan neighborhood, east Jerusalem on November 19, 2014. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM NOVEMBER 19: A Palestinian girl looks at the damaged home of Palestinian AbdelRahman al-Shaludi, blamed for killing two Israelis in a deadly vehicular attack last month, after it was destroyed by Israeli forces in Silwan neighborhood, east Jerusalem on November 19, 2014. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM NOVEMBER 19: A car is damaged as Israeli forces demolishes the home of Palestinian AbdelRahman al-Shaludi, blamed for killing two Israelis in a deadly vehicular attack last month, in Silwan neighborhood, east Jerusalem on November 19, 2014. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM NOVEMBER 19: Relatives of Palestinian AbdelRahman al-Shaludi, blamed for killing two Israelis in a deadly vehicular attack last month, inspect the their family home after it was destroyed by Israeli forces in Silwan neighborhood, east Jerusalem on November 19, 2014. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Masked Palestinians hold knifes and axes as they celebrate an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue while standing in front of a poster of the attackers,Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, during a rally in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years. AFP PHOTO/ SAID KHATIB (Photo credit should read SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 18: (ISRAEL OUT) (EDITOR'S NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT) This handout image supplied by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), shows a view of the scene of a shooting at a Synagogue where a suspected Palestinian attack took place on November 18, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. Four Israelis have been killed and several others wounded in a terror attack this morning in a synagogue in the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. Two Palestinian assailants were killed at the scene by police. (Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO via Getty Images)
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Rabbi Moshe Twersky Laid To Rest - http://t.co/rk9CXR4nj9 http://t.co/s74reo90o0
Mourners attend funeral of Rabbi Moshe Twersky, killed in #Jerusalem terror attack today http://t.co/8ZjHJYczzd http://t.co/tKDUewbIZg
Liverpool rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg killed in Jerusalem terror attack caught on film http://t.co/Tj1PnShFhI http://t.co/3YWRK8KPUQ
Israeli security forces secure the scene on November 18, 2014, after two Palestinians attacked a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem. The attack, that killed four Israelis, began shortly before 7am (0500 GMT) as worshippers were attending morning prayers. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli security forces secure the scene after two Palestinians attacked a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem on November 18, 2014. The attack, that killed four Israelis, began shortly before 7am (0500 GMT) as worshippers were attending morning prayers. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Ultra-orthodox Jews watch the scene on November 18, 2014, after two Palestinians attacked a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem. The attack, that killed four Israelis, began shortly before 7am (0500 GMT) as worshippers were attending morning prayers. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
GRAPHIC CONTENT Israeli Zaka emergency services volunteers evacuate the body of one of two Palestinian assailants who were shot dead while attacking a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem on November 18, 2014. The attack, that killed four Israelis, began shortly before 7am (0500 GMT) as worshippers were attending morning prayers. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli security forces stand next to the body of one of two Palestinian assailants who were shot dead while attacking a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem on November 18, 2014. The attack, that killed four Israelis, began shortly before 7am (0500 GMT) as worshippers were attending morning prayers. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli Zaka emergency services volunteers carry the body of a Palestinian assailant who was shot dead while attacking a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem on November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and axes attacked a Jerusalem synagogue killing four Israelis, police said. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli Zaka emergency services volunteers carry the body of one of the two Palestinian assailants who were shot dead while attacking a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem on November 18, 2014. The attack, that killed four Israelis, began shortly before 7am (0500 GMT) as worshippers were attending morning prayers. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian woman throws sweets as she celebrates an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue while standing near a poster of the attackers,Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, during a rally in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years. AFP PHOTO/ SAID KHATIB (Photo credit should read SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)
Masked Palestinians hold knifes and axes as they celebrate an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue during a rally in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years. AFP PHOTO/ SAID KHATIB (Photo credit should read SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) supporter distributes sweets as he celebrates an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years. AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED ABED (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
A masked Palestinian holds a knife as he celebrates an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue while standing next to a poster of the attackers,Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, during a rally in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years. AFP PHOTO/ SAID KHATIB (Photo credit should read SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israli security member stands outside a synagogue that was attacked by two Palestinians earlier in the morning in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem on November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years. AFP PHOTO/ JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks past synagogue, with bullet holes in the window, that was attacked by two Palestinians earlier in the morning in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem on November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years. AFP PHOTO/ JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 18: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) Israeli police crime scene investigators stand near bodies of suspected attackers outside a synagogue on November 18, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. Four Israelis have been killed and several others wounded in a terror attack this morning in a synagogue in the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. Two Palestinian assailants were killed at the scene by police. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 18: Israeli emergency personnel clean the site outside a synagogue on November 18, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. Four Israelis have been killed and several others wounded in a terror attack this morning in a synagogue in the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. Two Palestinian assailants were killed at the scene by police. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 18: Israeli orthodox examines car outside a synagogue on November 18, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. Four Israelis have been killed and several others wounded in a terror attack this morning in a synagogue in the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. Two Palestinian assailants were killed at the scene by police.(Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 18: Israeli emergency personnel clean the site outside a synagogue on November 18, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. Four Israelis have been killed and several others wounded in a terror attack this morning in a synagogue in the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. Two Palestinian assailants were killed at the scene by police. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
An Israeli emergency services member cleans the sidewalk at the scene of an attack, by two Palestinians, on Israeli worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem on November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and axes burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead, in the deadliest attack in the city in years.AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
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THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Two Palestinians stormed a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday, attacking worshippers praying inside with knives, axes and guns, and killing four people before they were killed in a shootout with police, officials said.

The attack, the deadliest in Jerusalem in years, is bound to ratchet up fears of sustained violence in the city, already on edge amid soaring tensions over a contested holy site.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel will "respond harshly" to the attack, describing it as a "cruel murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by despicable murderers." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he spoke to Netanyahu after the assault and denounced it as an "act of pure terror and senseless brutality and violence."

Israeli police called it a terrorist attack and said the two Palestinian assailants were cousins from east Jerusalem. It was not immediately known if they were affiliated with any group. Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that runs the Gaza Strip, praised the attack but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said six people were also wounded in the attack, including two police officers. Four of the wounded were reported in serious condition. He said police were searching the area for other suspects.

Associated Press footage from the scene showed the synagogue, in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighborhood, surrounded by police and rescue workers following the attack.

Wounded worshippers were being assisted by paramedics and a bloodied butcher's knife lay near the scene of the attack.

"I tried to escape. The man with the knife approached me. There was a chair and table between us ... my prayer shawl got caught. I left it there and escaped," Yossi, who was praying at the synagogue at the time of the attack, told Israeli Channel 2 TV. He declined to give his last name.

Yosef Posternak, who was at the synagogue at the time of the attack, told Israel Radio that some 25 worshippers were inside when the attackers entered.

"I saw people lying on the floor, blood everywhere. People were trying to fight with (the attackers) but they didn't have much of a chance," he said.

A photo in Israeli media from inside the synagogue showed what appeared to be a body on the floor draped in a prayer shawl, with blood smattered nearby.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the attackers were Palestinians from east Jerusalem, which has been the scene of relentless clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in recent months. She identified the assailants as Ghassan and Oday Abu Jamil from the Jabal Mukaber neighborhood.

Soon after the attack, dozens of police officers gathered outside the Abu Jamils home. Samri said this was part of the police investigation. She said residents threw stones at the police officers.

Israel has been on edge with a spate of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, killing at least six people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Tel Aviv in recent weeks, prior to Tuesday's casualties.

Jerusalem residents had already been fearful of what appeared to be lone wolf attacks using cars or knives against pedestrians, but Tuesday's synagogue assault harkens back to gruesome attacks during the Palestinian uprising of the last decade.

Israel's police chief said Tuesday's attack was likely not organized by militant groups, similar to other recent incidents, making it more difficult for security forces to prevent the violence.

"These are individuals who decide to do horrible acts. It's very hard to know ahead of time about every such incident," Yohanan Danino told reporters at the scene.

Tensions appeared to have been somewhat defused last week following a meeting between Netanyahu, Kerry and Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman. The meeting was an attempt to restore calm after months of violent confrontations surrounding a sacred shrine holy to both Jews and Muslims.

Israel and the Palestinians said then they would take steps to reduce tensions that might lead to an escalation.

In his statement, Netanyahu blamed the violence on incitement by both Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and said the international community ignores the incitement.

Kerry blamed the attack on Palestinian calls for "days of rage," and said Palestinian leaders must take serious steps to refrain from such incitement. He also urged Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack "in the most powerful terms."

"Innocent people who had come to worship died in the sanctuary of a synagogue. They were hatched, hacked and murdered in that holy place in an act of pure terror and senseless brutality and murder," Kerry said.

Hamas' statement praised the synagogue attack, saying it was a "response to continued Israeli crimes, the killing, desecrating al-Aqsa (mosque)," a reference to a recent incident at the holy site.

Much of the recent violence stems from tensions surrounding the Jerusalem holy site referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount because of the Jewish temples that stood there in biblical times. It is the most sacred place in Judaism; Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The site is so holy that Jews have traditionally refrained from going there, instead praying at the adjacent Western Wall. Israel's chief rabbis have urged people not to ascend to the area, but in recent years, a small but growing number of Jews, including ultranationalist lawmakers, have begun regularly visiting the site, a move seen as a provocation.

Related:
4 killed, 6 injured in Jerusalem synagogue attack
John Kerry condemns attack on Jerusalem synagogue

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