Carnage in Jerusalem
March 6: MSNBC's Savannah Guthrie reports on the killings at a Jewish school near Jerusalem.
MSNBC News Services
updated 1 hour, 27 minutes ago
JERUSALEM - A Palestinian gunman entered the library of a rabbinical seminary and opened fire on a crowded nighttime study session Thursday, killing eight people and wounding dozens of others
before he was killed, police and rescue workers said. It was the first militant attack in Jerusalem in more than four years.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip praised the operation, and thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza to celebrate.
The day's violence, which also included a deadly ambush of an army patrol near Israel's border with Gaza, was likely to complicate attempts by Egypt to forge a truce between Israel and Palestinian militants. The U.S. is backing the Egyptian effort.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the attacker walked through the seminary's main gate and entered the library, where witnesses said some 80 people were gathered. He carried an assault rifle and pistol, and used both weapons in the attack. He said police were also searching for an explosives belt.
Two hours after the shooting, police found the body of the eighth victim.
Covered in blood
Yehuda Meshi Zahav, head of the Zaka rescue service, entered the library after the attack. "The whole building looked like a slaughterhouse. The floor was covered in blood. The students were in class at the time of the attack," he said. "The floors are littered with holy books covered in blood."
Witnesses described a terrifying scene during the shooting, with students jumping out the windows of the building to escape.
After the shooting, hundreds of seminary students demonstrated outside the building, screaming for revenge and chanting "death to Arabs."
Rabbi Shlomo Amar, one of Israel's two chief rabbis, led a prayer session at the seminary after the shooting. Students huddled together, and many were sobbing uncontrollably.
Government spokesman Mark Regev harshly condemned the shooting. "Tonight's massacre in Jerusalem is a defining moment," he said. "It is clear that those people celebrating this bloodshed have shown themselves to be not only the enemies of Israel but of all of humanity."
Regev said the Palestinian government must take steps against the extremists, not just condemn their attacks.
Israeli defense officials said the attacker came from east Jerusalem, the predominantly Palestinian section of the city. Jerusalem's Palestinians have Israeli ID cards that give them freedom of movement inside Israel, unlike Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
David Simchon, head of the seminary, said the students had been preparing a celebration for the new month on the Jewish calendar, which includes the holiday of Purim. "We were planning to have a Purim party here tonight and instead we had a massacre," he told Channel 2 TV.
Its very sad tonight in Jerusalem. Many people were killed in the heart of Jerusalem, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski.