“It was a slaughterhouse,”
Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, head of the Zaka emergency service, told Reuters after
surveying the scene at the Merkaz Harav seminary, one of the most prominent
Jewish educational centers in Jerusalem.
Police commander Aharon Franco told the
Associated Press at the scene that “an Israeli army officer nearby”
then shot the gunman dead. Government spokesman Daniel Seaman and police said
there was only one gunman despite initial reports of two.
The New York Times reported that the
gunman was thought to be either a Palestinian or an Israeli Arab living inside Jerusalem.
One of the seminary students, Yitzhak Dadon,
said he shot the attacker twice in the head with his personal firearm. “I
laid on the roof of the study hall, cocked my gun and waited for him. He came
out of the library spraying automatic fire,” Dadon told the AP.
It was not immediately possible to
resolve whether Dadon shot the intruder or if he was killed by an army officer
as reported by the police commander.
Post reported that about 7,000 Gazans belonging to different factions marched
in the streets in Jebaliya, “firing in the air in celebration, and visited
homes of those killed and wounded in Israel’s ground operation this
week.” Residents in Rafah on the border with Egypt “distributed sweets to
moving cars, and militants fired mortars in celebration.”
Hamas praised the attack but stopped
short of claiming responsibility.
“We bless the (Jerusalem) operation. It will not be the
last,” Hamas said in a text message sent to reporters.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television said a previously unknown group called the
Martyrs of Imad Mughniyeh and Gaza
claimed responsibility for the attack.
Mughniyeh, a top Hezbollah commander,
was killed Feb. 12 by a car bomb in Syria. Hezbollah blamed his
assassination on Israel,
which denied any role.
Ayman Mohyeldin said questions will be raised as to how the gunman passed
through the many security checkpoints in the area.
deaths will ultimately raise many questions regarding the apparent lapse in
surveillance around the school,” he said in a report for Al Jazeera from
The seminary is in the Kiryat Moshe
quarter at the entrance to Jerusalem, a
prestigious center of Jewish studies identified with the leadership of the
Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank.
President Bush told Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert that the United States
stands with Israel
after the attack.
“I condemn in the strongest
possible terms the terrorist attack in Jerusalem
that targeted innocent students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva,” Mr. Bush
said in a statement, Reuters reported. “This barbaric and vicious attack
on innocent civilians deserves the condemnation of every nation.”
The attack in Jerusalem
came a day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice persuaded moderate
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return to peace talks with Israel and on the same day Egyptian officials
were trying to mediate a truce between Gaza
militants and Israel.
There were no attacks by Palestinian
militants in Jerusalem
during 2007, though police and the military claimed to have foiled many
attempts. Between 2001 and 2004, at the height of Palestinian-Israeli fighting,
Jerusalem was a
frequent target of Palestinian attacks, including suicide bombings on buses.
“It’s very sad tonight in Jerusalem. Many people
were killed in the heart of Jerusalem,”
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski.
Earlier Thursday, Palestinian militants
in Gaza set off a bomb on the Gaza border, blowing up an Israeli army jeep
and killing a soldier.