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  Tuesday, March 31, 2020
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A Palestinian gunman shot at least eight people
A Palestinian gunman shot at least eight people dead in the library of a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, in the worst terrorist attack to hit the city in four years.

Ten other students in the religious education center were injured, three of them seriously.

Eyewitnesses said the gunman entered the building concealing an automatic rifle and pistol in a cardboard box, made his way to the library, and fired from both weapons before an off-duty soldier shot the attacker dead.

After the massacre, a crowd gathered outside the seminary shouting "Death to Arabs." In the Gaza Strip, where Israel recently conducted a major military offensive that took the lives of around 120, crowds celebrated the attack, with militants firing guns into the air.

Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, did not claim responsibility for the killing, but spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group "blesses the heroic operation in Jerusalem, which was a natural reaction to the Zionist massacre."

The head of Israel's Zaka rescue service, Yehuda Meshi Zahav, who entered the library soon after the attack, told reporters the building was "like a slaughterhouse. The floor was covered in blood... The floors are littered with holy books covered in blood."

Witnesses said students had jumped out of windows to escape the killer.

The leaders of Israel, most world powers, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, but the United Nations Security Council failed to issue a condemnation due to opposition from Libya.

The North African nation, which became a Security Council member in January after being voted in last year, said the attack should not be condemned without acknowledging Israeli atrocities in Gaza.

"If the council should take any action, it should be a balanced action and should condemn the killing in Gaza as well as the killing in Jerusalem," the country's envoy to the council said.

Russia's envoy to the 15-member UN Security Council, Vitaly Churkin, said after the council's extraordinary meeting called by Washington on Thursday to discuss and condemn the attack: "This terrorist attack should be strongly condemned by the Security Council... Unfortunately, the Security Council was unable to form a unified position of unanimous condemnation."

Churkin told reporters he had proposed a compromise, condemning all acts of killing in the Middle East, and separately condemning the Jerusalem seminary massacre, but that no consensus had been reached.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said the country "condemns the attack resolutely and unconditionally."

He said Russia recognized Israel's right to protect the lives, security, and wellbeing of its citizens, and urged for "everything possible to be done to prevent extremists and terrorists from disrupting the complicated ongoing talks process."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, said: "Tonight's massacre in Jerusalem is a defining moment. Those celebrating these murders have shown themselves to be the enemies not only of Israel, but the enemies of peace and reconciliation."

According to Israeli defense officials, the gunman was from Arab-dominated East Jerusalem. Residents of the area are able to travel to any part of Israel, a right denied to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The attack came just after a visit to Israel by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in which she persuaded the Palestinian leader to resume peace talks with Israel. Abbas had broken off the negotiations in protest against Israeli military's offensive in Gaza.

The death toll in the rabbinical center is Jerusalem's worst since the bus bombing of January 29, 2004 that killed 11 people, and Israel's most severe since the Tel Aviv suicide bombing of April 17, 2006, which also took 11 lives.


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