After weeks of intermittent clashes and rioting between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces, tensions in Jerusalem have reached a tipping point after four Israelis died in what police say was a "terrorist attack" at a synagogue on Tuesday morning. The incident comes almost a day after a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his vehicle, allegedly killed by Jewish extremists.
Two men, apparently armed with a pistol and knives, entered the Kehilat Yaakov synagogue, located in a religious study hall in the Har Nof neighborhood, and began attacking worshipers, according to initial media reports.
The police say they shot both the assailants dead inside the synagogue and while their identity has not been revealed at the time of writing this post, Israeli new sources claim they were Palestinians.
As unfortunate and tragic as the incident is, the killings have renewed fears that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might react with brutal military force – for the second time this year.
When three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank in June, Netanyahu carried out mass arrests, nighttime raids and deadly firepower, leading to Israel's largest ground operation in the Palestinian territory in nearly a decade.
Although there wasn’t any “concrete evidence” at that time linking the notorious Islamist group Hamas to the suspected abduction, the attacks were nevertheless carried out by the Israeli government.
Blood was spilled on both sides of the border and operation “Protective Edge” ended on Aug. 26, killing more than 21,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 70 people on the Israeli side, including 64 IDF soldiers.
While Netanyahu’s intent to punish the perpetrators of the three slain teens was understandable, his aggressive approach toward bombing the entire Palestinian population was labeled as a war crime by international human rights advocates.
All things considered, the hostile response from the Israeli government did more harm than good – for both sides.
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The world now holds its breath for another conflict as Netanyahu has vowed to "respond harshly" to the synagogue attack in Jerusalem, calling it a "cruel murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by despicable murderers."
As always, it will all come down to what Israel decides to do next.