Palestinian gunman kills 7 near Jerusalem synagogue

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JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian gunman opened fire outside an east Jerusalem synagogue Friday night, killing seven people, including a 70-year-old woman, and wounding three others before he was shot and killed by police, officials said. It was the deadliest attack on Israelis in years and raised the likelihood of more bloodshed.

The attack on worshippers celebrating the Jewish Sabbath set off celebrations in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, where people fired guns into the air, honked horns and distributed sweets.

Israeli police said the shootings occurred in Neve Yaakov, a religious neighborhood in east Jerusalem with a large ultra-Orthodox population, and that the gunman fled in a car after opening fire. Police said they chased after him and after an exchange of fire, killed him.

Jerusalem police chief Doron Turjeman confirmed seven deaths, in addition to the shooter, and said three people were wounded.

Police identified the attacker as a 21-year-old east Jerusalem resident who apparently acted alone. Turjeman promised an “aggressive and significant” effort to track down anyone who had helped him.

Police also released a photo of the pistol it said was used by the attacker.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant huddled with Israel's military chief and other top security officials and instructed them to assist police and strengthen defenses near Jerusalem and for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

"Israel’s defense establishment will operate decisively and forcefully against terror and will reach anyone involved in the attack,” Gallant said.

Israel's MADA rescue service said the dead included a 70-year-old woman. Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital later said a 15-year-old boy was recovering from surgery.

The bloodshed was the deadliest on Israelis since eight people were killed in a 2008 shooting in a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, according to the Foreign Ministry. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting. In Gaza, Hazem Qassem, spokesman for the ruling Hamas militant group, said the attack was “a revenge and natural response” to the killing of nine Palestinians in Jenin on Thursday.

At several locations across the Gaza Strip, dozens of Palestinians gathered in spontaneous demonstrations to celebrate the Jerusalem attack, with some coming out of dessert shops with large trays of sweets to distribute.

In downtown Gaza City, celebratory gunfire could be heard, as cars honked and calls of “God is great!” wafted from mosque loudspeakers. In various West Bank towns, Palestinians launched fireworks and honked horns in celebration.

Neve Yaakov is a Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem that Israel considers to be a neighborhood of its capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as a capital of their future state.

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