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Shooting Kills 8 at Jerusalem Religious School

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Shooting Kills 8 at Jerusalem Religious School

Middle East

Shooting Kills 8 at Jerusalem Religious School

Shooting Kills 8 at Jerusalem Religious School

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Israeli security forces are on high alert on Friday after a Palestinian gunman killed eight students at a Jewish religious school in Jerusalem. Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in Hamas-controlled Gaza to celebrate the attack.

STEVEN INSKEEP, host:

Let's go next to Israel where security forces are on high alert. It is the day after a Palestinian gunman killed eight students at a Jewish religious school in Jerusalem. The Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza did not take responsibility but welcomed the attack.

NPR's Linda Gradstein joins us now from Jerusalem. What's the mood there?

LINDA GRADSTEIN: Well, the mood here is quite grim. The funeral processions left from the religious school, the site of the attack. And this attack has hit especially hard because of the ages of those killed. One of them was 26 and the rest were between 15 and 19. The funerals were being broadcast live on Israel television.

It's the first attack in Jerusalem in four - more than four years. And police said that there was some concern about possible revenge attacks by Israelis on Palestinians or further attacks by Palestinians on Israelis. Police deployed throughout Jerusalem. There were police - I was walking around earlier - just about on every corner. And so there really was a feeling of both tension and sadness.

INSKEEP: And has anybody said they will take responsibility for this attack?

GRADSTEIN: Well, residents of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, which is sort of a little village on the southern part of Jerusalem said the attacker was named Allah Abu-dain. That he was 20 years old and that he had worked as a driver at the religious school.

His family set up a mourning tent on Friday and hung green Hamas flags outside their house. This man had been arrested by Israeli authorities four months ago and then released about two months later.

The police would not confirm what these residents were saying. What they did say, however, is that as a resident of Jerusalem he would've had a blue ID card, which is the same kind of card that Israelis have and that that would've given him complete freedom of movement all over Israel and into Jerusalem.

There was apparently no security guard at this religious school. He walked in with both a rifle and a pistol in a large bag. He went to the library where there were dozens of students, and he just opened fire in all directions. And he was then killed by an off-duty Israeli soldier who lived nearby.

INSKEEP: So something is known about the gunman himself. His connections are less clear.

I do want to ask about something else though, Linda Gradstein. We mentioned that Hamas welcomed this attack. What about the situation in and around Israel right now would make Hamas welcome this attack?

GRADSTEIN: Well, it comes just days after a large-scale Israeli incursion into north Gaza that left more than 120 Palestinians dead, about half of them civilians. I was in Gaza earlier this week and there was a lot of anger over this Israeli incursion. The Israeli incursion came after ongoing rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel. That rocket fire last week killed an Israeli civilian. So it comes at a time of heightened tensions.

And about thousands of Palestinians, after the news of last night's shooting in Jerusalem spread, went out into the streets and were celebrating. And that response especially angered Prime Minster Ehud Olmert. And he said that the Palestinians have reached a new moral low. That Palestinians in Gaza are celebrating while Israeli boys are being killed.

INSKEEP: Well, what are the chances of peace talks when you have people celebrating the death of children?

GRADSTEIN: Well, you know, some in Israel, and among the Palestinians, say that to cut off the peace talks would, in fact, be giving in to terrorism. Both Israeli politicians in the peace camp and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas sharply condemned the attack. And Israeli officials said they will not cut off peace talks.

However, what could be in danger is Ehud Olmert's coalition. His coalition right now is dependent on one ultra-orthodox party, the Shas Party, which is under pressure from its constituents to leave the government, especially if it seems that Israel's going to be making any concessions on any of the big issues like Jerusalem or dismantling Jewish settlements.

INSKEEP: OK. NPR's Linda Gradstein is in Jerusalem.

Linda, thanks very much.

GRADSTEIN: Thank you, Steve.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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