Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The killing of 8 young students in a religious school in Jerusalem will not block dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians. It was declared by Arye Mekel, spokesperson for the Olmert government, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the assassination.
The attack took place yesterday evening at 20.30 (local time) in the library of Mercaz Harav, a yeshiva, Orthodox Jewish school, in west Jerusalem near the railway station. A man – according to the Israeli government a Palestinian from east Jerusalem – entered the crowded library, opened fire with an assault rifle killing 8 young men aged between 15 and 17 years. One young Jew, despite being injured, succeeded in shooting and killing the aggressor.
Unconfirmed reports say that the Palestinian was also wearing an explosives belt, with the intention of detonating himself to provoke even more deaths. Other reports claim there were two aggressors, and that one got away.
The attack took place just one day after Condoleezza Rice Abbas succeeded in persuading President Abbas to re-open negotiations with Israel, which came to a standstill during Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip.
A spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry says that those responsible for the yeshive killings are “killing the possibilities for peace”.
Abbas condemned the Hamas movement, who greeted the attack as a “natural reaction” to the Israeli military incursion in the Strip, that left over 120 Palestinians dead.
Condemnation has also been pouring in from the International community. Un secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was unable to produce a unanimous declaration from the UN Security Council, which was gathered in meetings yesterday. The Libyan representative as well as other states wanted condemnation for the attack to be directly linked to the military action in the Gaza Strip.
According to Hezbollah media in Lebanon, responsabilità for tha attck was claimed by a previously unknown group calling themselves “Jalil Freedom Battalions - the Martyrs of Imad Mughniyeh and Gaza”.
Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah leader and military commander, was killed in a car bomb in Damascus on 12 February last.
The fact that the school is at the heart of the settler movement in the occupied West Bank may have been the reason why it was targeted. Many of its students are on special courses that combine religious study with service in combat units in the Israeli army.