Thursday’s terror attack on students of the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem is being called one of the worst terror incidents in Israel’s capital since the beginning of the Second Intifada. The attack, which now appears to have been carried out by a lone Arab gunman, resulted in 8 students being killed and close to 40 injured, including 5 still listed to be in critical condition at the time of this writing. Some of the students killed and wounded were as young as 14.
Police were notified shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time, after a man dressed similar to a yeshiva student appeared at the entrance carrying a “parcel” that carried the AK 47 assault rifle and numerous magazines of ammunition which he began to fire indiscriminately at the students who were attending prayers in the library. During the pandemonium that followed, scores of screaming students tried to escape the hail of bullets, including jumping out of the yishiva’s second and third story windows. Many of the injuries sustained by the students included broken bones caused by jumping to the ground below.
One of the students, who identified himself as Ariel, called out on his cell phone and said that the assailant “just started shooting at everyone indiscriminately”. Police and army personnel who arrived at the scene were hampered in stopping the carnage due to the confusion caused by the student’s panic. “Bodies and blood were everywhere” another student said. An IDF officer who was familiar with the Yishiva’s layout, entered the building by a back door and managed to kill the attacker when one of his ammunition magazines ran out.
The terrorist, A Jerusalem Arab, came from the Gibrael Al Buchabar neighborhood in East Jerusalem IDF personnel entered the terrorist’s home and took away several family members for questioning.
The yeshiva, one of the largest and most well known in Jerusalem, was founded in 1924 by Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, who was Israel’s first Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Yochanan Eiseman, one of the Yishiva’s rabbis and teachers, said afterwards that despite this tragedy, in which the country’s “center for religious Zionism” was attacked, the institution will carry on and will not be deterred from teaching Torah and Zionism to its students. Another rabbi said that due to the yishiva’s role in promoting religions Zionism it’s as if “Zionism itself has been attacked”. Unfortunately, that’s nothing new.
Though no particular terrorist organization has so far stepped forward to claim responsibility (at this writing anyway), the act was cheered by thousands of people in both the West Bank and Gaza. A Hamas spokesman said that his organization was not responsible, although they “greatly sympathized” with its occurrence. An Israel government spokesman said that despite this outrage, talks between Israel and the Palestinians will continue.
Talks may continue, but now who will listen to them?