Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claims responsibility for Jerusalem shooting as Israel arrests 42 Palestinians
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for a shooting in Jerusalem on Friday night which left at least seven Israeli settlers killed, in what Israel has said is one of the worst attacks in years.
The shooting in the Neve Yaakov Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem came after the killing of 10 Palestinians a day earlier in the occupied West Bank, nine of them in the Jenin refugee camp.
The shooter was identified as 21-year-old Khairy Alqam.
"The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades mourns the martyrdom of Khairy Alqam from Al-Tur neighbourhood in occupied Jerusalem," the group said.
It added that Alqam died "after he shook the security of the Zionist entity, and with his gun killed more than seven and exposed the fragility of their [Israel’s] security and military system."
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – the armed wing of the Fatah movement - said the Friday evening attack was a "natural response" to the crimes committed by Israel, the latest being the raid in Jenin.
At least 32 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the West Bank since the beginning of the year.
Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahranoth said on its website Friday that Alqam had "no security records" with the Israeli authorities and was "unknown" to them.
In the wake of the attack, Israel on Saturday increased its security alert to "highest level," deploying extra forces to Jerusalem and the West Bank.
A statement by the Israeli police said they had arrested "42 people for questioning" overnight, "some of them members of the terrorist's family". Others detained included residents of the gunman's neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem which Israel annexed in 1967.
Israel's police chief Kobi Shabtai called the shooting "one of the worst attacks [Israel] has encountered in recent years."
Khairy Alqam was named after his grandfather who was killed by an Israeli settler, Chaim Fellerman, over 20 years ago, Palestinian media revealed. Fellerman killed four other Palestinians and wounded several more in a series of stabbing attacks in 1998 and 1999.
بين الجد والحفيد .. في عام 1998 قتل المستوطن حاييم فلرمن المقدسي خيري علقم طعناً بالسكين .. اليوم يأتي الحفيد خيري علقم لينفذ عملية إطلاق نار بالقدس خلفت عشرة قتلى من المستوطنين pic.twitter.com/hdxikVPtHd— Tamer Almisshal تامر المسحال (@TamerMisshal) January 27, 2023
Israeli broadcaster Kan said Alqam had waited for settlers to leave the synagogue before opening fire.
Jerusalem police chief Doron Turgeman said Alqam arrived in his car to Neve Yaakov and opened fire on settlers near the synagogue, then drove towards the nearby Beit Hanina intersection.
After receiving reports of a disturbance, Israeli police were able to locate the car before also coming under fire from Alqam.
The Palestinian man reportedly got out of his car and tried to flee before being shot and killed, Turgeman added.
"The Israeli government seems intent on weakening the Palestinian Authority to the point of collapse."— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) January 12, 2023
Why Palestinians brace for a dystopian nightmare in 2023 ⬇ https://t.co/bqTmmf5pGz
US President Joe Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the phone, condemning what he called a "horrific terror attack".
"The president made clear that this was an attack against the civilized world," the White House said in a readout of the call, adding that Biden also "stressed the ironclad US commitment to Israel's security."
Turkey, which has lately seen improved ties with Israel, also condemned the attack, as did Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE.
However, Hezbollah, the powerful Iran-backed militant group in Lebanon which has previously fought wars with Israel, praised the attack.
Israel began carrying out near-daily raids on towns and villages in the West Bank since early last year, killing, wounding and arresting hundreds of Palestinians, many of them minors.
The United Nations said 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians since at least 2005.
A number of Israelis have also been killed in attacks claimed by Palestinian groups across different Israeli cities and settlements.
Netanyahu's new extreme-right governmenthas increased Palestinian fears that they will be subjected to more persecution and deadly violence by Israel.
Reuters contributed to this report.