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Jerusalem synagogue attacked as violence intensifies in Israeli-occupied West Bank


Israel says a Palestinian gunman killed at least seven people outside a synagogue in Jerusalem as worshippers were marking the Shabbat, one of the most serious attacks on Israelis in years. This comes as violence is intensifying quickly. Yesterday, Israeli troops carried out the deadliest raid in the occupied West Bank in years, leaving several militants and a woman dead.

NPR's Daniel Estrin joins us from Tel Aviv. And, Daniel, what else can you tell us about the shooting in Jerusalem tonight?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Well, Israeli police are saying that it was a 21-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem who came to an Israeli settlement neighborhood of Jerusalem and opened fire at people who were outside a synagogue. Israeli media say that they were gathered there after Shabbat prayers, and passersby were also shot. The shooter then drove away. The police apprehended him. There was a firefight, and he was killed. And at least three others were wounded, including a 15-year-old in stable condition.

SHAPIRO: What have Israeli officials said about this?

ESTRIN: Well, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his government has decided on some immediate steps. He wouldn't specify what, but he said something noteworthy. He said, Israelis, don't take the law into your own hands. We have the army and the police for that. This came right after his far-right security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was at the scene of the shooting. Reportedly, Israelis who were gathered there were chanting, death to terrorists, and yelling at him that this happened on his watch. And he reportedly said, yes, more Israelis should have guns.

Remember; this comes just weeks after Israel's right-wing government took office. This is a government that's taking a tougher line against Palestinians. And as for Palestinians, there were celebrations in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank celebrating the attack tonight, including in Jenin, where we saw a deadly Israeli raid yesterday.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. You mentioned that deadly Israeli raid yesterday. Is there concern that this could be part of a spiral of increasing violence?

ESTRIN: That is the fear, that this will continue to spiral. This - yesterday's attack was the deadliest attack Israeli troops have carried out in the West Bank in years. Today was the deadliest attack Israelis have faced in many years. And, you know, this is coming after about 10 months of an Israeli campaign in the West Bank, Israeli troops going after Palestinian suspects. This year, at least 30 Palestinians have been killed. So, yes, a violent spiral is feared here.

SHAPIRO: The U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is scheduled to visit the Mideast this weekend. The trip has been in the works for a while. Can he do anything to try to calm things down?

ESTRIN: You know, Ari, it's really unclear whether he can restrain Israeli and Palestinian leaders at this time and calm things down. The White House has condemned the attack in Jerusalem, but the Palestinian leadership has already said it's calling off its cooperation with Israeli security officials after yesterday's raid and killings in Jenin. And Blinken will try to keep that security cooperation going, but Blinken has a lot on his plate. He has a lot of long-term concerns with the new Israeli government, which wants to expand settlements in the West Bank, a lot of protests in Israel over plans to weaken the judiciary. So it's a very chaotic time as Blinken is coming.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Thank you.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.