4 worshipers killed in Jerusalem synagogue; Netanyahu calls for unity

Willie Grace | 11/18/2014, 3 p.m. | Updated on 11/18/2014, 3 p.m.
Addressing reporters Tuesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for national unity against "those human animals who committed this massacre" ...

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A Jerusalem synagogue turned from peaceful sanctuary to house of horrors within moments Tuesday, after two Palestinian cousins wielding a gun and butcher knives attacked during morning prayers -- a terror attack that Israel's leader characterized as "blood libel" fanned by Palestinian leaders.

Addressing reporters Tuesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for national unity against "those human animals who committed this massacre" and against those -- singling out Hamas, the Islamic movement and the Palestinian Authority -- who he claims "disseminate libels against the state of Israel."

"There are those who wish to uproot us from the capital, from our land," he said, referring to Jerusalem. "They will not be successful... We have to unify forces."

Netanyahu spoke hours after the latest act of violence to afflict the region, this time at a synagogue in West Jerusalem's Har Nof area.

Photos taken inside the Jewish house of worship, and released by Israeli officials, painted a grim scene -- from lifeless bodies sprawled on a floor to a shattered pair of glasses to blood seemingly everywhere, drenching holy books, prayer shawls and walls.

Three dual U.S.-Israeli citizens and a British-Israeli citizen died in the attack before police shot and killed the two assailants.

The terror attack -- the deadliest in Jerusalem since a man with an automatic weapon killed eight seminary students in March 2008 -- came at a particularly tense time in that city, and the region at large. It follows a series of recent deadly stabbings and vehicle incidents that, while not the large-scale suicide bombings that defined last decade's second intifada or the rocket attacks from Gaza earlier this year, have left Jerusalem on edge.

"While Israelis are a tough breed, repeated, totally unpredictable attacks are bound to take their toll," said David Harris, an expert with The Israel Project. "Is a mother going to allow her child to walk to school, to catch a bus to a movie theater or (ride a train) to visit a friend?"

Netanyahu blasts 'incitement' by Palestinian leaders

The answer to what's next came quickly, as Israeli authorities moved into the slain attackers' East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber to demolish their homes on Netanyahu's order. The Palestinians' official WAFA news agency reported 13 people were arrested, including an al-Aqsa Mosque guard.

Mark Regev, Netanyahu's spokesman, said that authorities were also "beefing up the security presence" around Jerusalem.

"The goal is to make sure that there are not copycat attacks," Regev said.

The war of words between the two sides, meanwhile, continued.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, something that Netanyahu said he was "glad" for but insisted "is not enough."

"(Abbas) does not send out terrorists, he doesn't directly encourage acts of terror, and this is good," the Prime Minister said, echoing an assessment by an Israeli security chief. "On the other hand, the incitement of the Palestinian Authority -- and he heads the Palestinian Authority -- and even some things he says ... encourage terrorism, in terms of incitement (of) tensions that run high."