NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Two Palestinian cousins armed with meat cleavers and a gun stormed a Jerusalem synagogue during morning prayers Tuesday, killing five people in the city’s bloodiest attack in years.
Police killed the attackers in a shootout.
The attack ratcheted up fears of sustained violence in the city, which is already on edge amid soaring tensions over its most contested holy site.
PHOTOS: Jerusalem Synagogue Attack
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, heavy hearts were evident Tuesday night as mourners gathered at the Riverdale Jewish Center to pray for the five victims of an attack that took place during morning prayers at a Jerusalem synagogue.
Police said the dead worshipers were three Americans and a Briton, and that all held dual Israeli citizenship. The fifth victim was a police officer who died following the attack, CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported.
The attack occurred in Har Nof, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood that has a large population of English-speaking immigrants.
Police shot and killed the two Palestinian attackers, who were reportedly angry over restrictions on access to a mosque located in Jerusalem’s Old City.
One of the men killed as Rabbi Moshe Twersky, the brother-in-law of the rabbi at Riverdale, Jonathan Rosenblatt. CBS2 spoke with him just before he flew to Israel.
“The world has lost a gentle scholar who never hurt a person in his life and who wished well to everyone,” Rosenblatt said.
Twersky, the grandson of a renowned rabbi from Boston, Joseph Soloveichik, was the head of Yeshivas Toras Moshe, a religious seminary for English-speaking students. Twersky grew up in Boston and had lived in Israel for about 30 years. He has a son who lives in Lakewood, Diamond reported.
Some Palestinians celebrated the attack – even handing out candy. It was a painful scene for Twersky’s family.
“I’m sorry for the kids who’ve been filled up with hate and will never have the chance to know people like him,” said Rosenblatt, who is married to Twersky’s sister, Tzipporah.
Rabbi Marc Penner of Yeshiva was also stunned to learn of Twersky’s murder. Twersky’s family has strong roots at the university in Manhattan.
“Every Jewish prayer is a prayer for peace, if you can’t go in a synagogue, how can you live in their places. It’s a very, very scary thing,” Rabbi Penner told CBS2’s Brennan.
“As a people, we just march on,” Penner added. “I’m a little more afraid then we were before, yes, but it’s what we do, we can’t give in terrorists.”
Several Jewish organizations also gathered outside the Palestinian mission on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for a protest and prayer vigil, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
Rabbi Avi Weiss said the horror is unimaginable.
“People to come in with hatchets and knives — it’s not just the murder of a person, it’s the murder of the world,” Weiss said.
In addition to Twersky, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki named the other two U.S. citizens as Aryeh Kupinsky and Cary William Levine.
Israeli authorities identified the British man as Avraham Goldberg.
One Canadian was wounded in the attack, said Francois Lasalle, a spokesman for Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department. He declined to provide further details.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is “horrified and heartbroken” by the attack.
“New York City stands in solidarity with Israel at this difficult time, and we hope and pray for a peaceful and secure future for all of its people,” de Blasio said in a statement.