Feedback
News
Middle East Unrest

Analysis: Can Bloodshed Be Stopped After Synagogue Attack?

Israeli PM vows harsh response to attacks 1:58

JERUSALEM — They came just before dawn in their prayer shawls, with their holy books, to worship at the synagogue that just 24 hours earlier was the scene of a mass murder. The blood of the victims had been cleared up; the bullet holes the only reminder of a massacre that has shaken Jerusalem.

They knelt and prayed this morning at the spot where two Palestinians, crying "God is great," attacked with meat cleavers and a pistol. The dead men have been buried, but the fear, in this synagogue and in the minds of many Jews here, remains.

Four of the five murdered men were well known in east Jerusalem, most living close to their place of worship and within a few streets of one another. Four were rabbis, three American-Israeli citizens. One, Moshe Twersky, was the head of the religious seminary and the son of a renowned Boston rabbi. Colleagues who knew him and others said their deaths sent shock waves through the Jewish world.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised a harsh response.

Overnight the home of a Palestinian involved in a previous deadly attack on Israeli citizens was demolished. More police have been drafted in to Palestinian areas of the city in recent weeks.

But the Israeli authorities have a problem with recent violence that has scarred the city and left 11 Israelis dead along with four of their attackers.

"The terrorists were killed yesterday in the incident, so you can’t punish them any further. But what you do is punish their families"

The attacks appear to be random, uncoordinated and not directed by any militant group.

The two men who attacked the synagogue were cousins from east Jerusalem; police say they had no criminal record and appeared to be acting alone.

So what exactly can Israel do?

It's a challenge for the country's intelligence agencies to predict where the next attack might be. As for Netanyahu’s promised "harsh response," this could be counter-productive.

Israeli PM vows harsh response to attacks 1:58

The demolition of the home of a previous attacker is seen by Palestinians — and by many experts — as collective punishment and thus illegal. Analysts say it will do little to reduce violence, and there is little evidence that it is any kind of deterrent.

“The terrorists were killed yesterday in the incident, so you can’t punish them any further. But what you do is punish their families,” said Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations at London’s Regent's University and fellow at international think tank Chatham House. “And when you punish their families you just radicalize [them].”

On the streets it seems clear it only adds to Palestinian resentment against what they allege is an increasingly tough crackdown by the city authorities.

And there is a greater fear; that the violence in Jerusalem seems beyond the control of either Israeli or Palestinian leaders. Both the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have condemned the massacre.

Home Demolished of Palestinian who Attacked Train Station 0:32

This is looking more and more like a war of neighbors. A conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that's been centered on disputes over land and ethnicity seems to be turning slowly into a religious conflict.

With Palestinian and Israeli leaders offering no viable political solutions to the crisis, Mekelberg worries that the region is only heading towards further bloodshed.

So the cycle of violence that swept through a west Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday seems certain to continue, and nobody in the city is quite sure how to stop its terrible momentum.