American volunteer among five killed by Palestinian terror attacks in Gush Etzion, Tel Aviv

November 20, 2015 Agencies
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Three people were killed and others were wounded in a Palestinian shooting and car-ramming terror attack on Thursday in Gush Etzion, just a few hours after a stabbing attack killed two Israelis in Tel Aviv during a Jewish prayer service.

JNS.org reports that the victims in the Gush Etzion attack included an Israeli man in his 50s, an 18-year-old American yeshiva student, and a 40-year-old Palestinian (not the terrorist).

A Palestinian motorist opened fire with a handheld machine gun on cars near the Jewish community of Alon Shvut. As he continued speeding towards the Gush Etzion Junction, he lost control of the vehicle and rammed into another car. The terrorist attempted to fire again, but Israeli security forces arrested him. Different media reports said that besides the three people killed in the attack, anywhere from four to seven Israelis were also wounded. The American Jew killed in the attack was identified as Ezra Schwartz of Sharon, Mass., who was in Israel for his gap year between high school and college.

Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old American yeshiva student from Massachusetts, was among the three people killed in a Palestinian terror attack in Gush Etzion on Thursday.

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Ezra Schwartz Photo: Facebook

Schwartz was riding in a van with five of his friends from Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh when a Palestinian terrorist driving in the opposite direction opened fire on the van and other cars stuck in traffic. The students were heading back to the yeshiva after handing out food to IDF soldiers.

“Ezra wanted nothing more than to help feed another person, to study Torah and his faith, and to live a life in peace. That opportunity was stolen from him and from us,” said a joint statement from Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Jewish Community Relations Council.

Two others—one Israeli and one Palestinian (not the terrorist)—were killed in Thursday’s attack in Gush Etzion, and seven were lightly wounded.

Raised in a family of five children, Schwartz grew up in the Boston suburb of Sharon and was a recent graduate of Maimonides Jewish Day School in Brookline, Mass. He had attended Camp Yavneh, a Jewish summer camp in Northwood, N.H. The camp said on Facebook that its community is “heartbroken to share the sad news that long time camper and counselor, Ezra Schwartz, was murdered in a terrorist attack in Israel today.”

Schwartz was also a participant in the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Masa Israel Journey program.

“Ezra came to Israel not only to study but also to be a part of the vibrant Israeli experience. This makes his death even more tragic,” said Jewish Agency Chairman of the Executive Natan Sharansky.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the victims’ families and said that those who condemned the recent Paris attacks also “need to condemn the attacks in Israel. It’s the same terror. Whoever does not do this is a hypocrite and blind.”

Magen David Adom responds to Thursday's fatal stabbing attack in Tel Aviv. Credit: Twitter.

Magen David Adom responds to Thursday’s fatal stabbing attack in Tel Aviv. Credit: Twitter.

Earlier Thursday, a Palestinian terrorist killed two Israeli Jews in a stabbing attack during afternoon prayers (mincha) on Thursday in Tel Aviv. The Shin Bet identified the attacker as a 36-year-old Palestinian from the village of Dura, near Hebron.

The prayer service was taking place in a Judaica store at the Panarama shopping center in south Tel Aviv. Eyewitness Shimon Vaknin told the Jerusalem Post that a man covered in blood fell on a number of worshippers shortly after prayers began, and that the 15-20 worshippers pushed the terrorist outside the store and barricaded the door while he shouted in Arabic and tried to re-enter. The terrorist later attempted to flee the scene, but was arrested and taken in for questioning.

The five people killed by Thursday’s attacks bring the death toll wrought by the current wave of Palestinian terrorism—dubbed the “stabbing intifada”—to 19.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of events in Tel Aviv and the Etzion Bloc held a security consultation with IDF, Israel Police and ISA officers and officials. Among the issues discussed were action in the Hebron area, from which most terrorists have set out recently, as well as steps against Israelis who employ or aid people in Israel illegally.

Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin said: “Our hearts are pained and broken. The pain is the same pain. The mourning is the same mourning in Tel Aviv, in Paris, in the Etzion Bloc, and in the Sinai. The pornography of death is striking across the world.

Fundamentalist Islamism is a danger to all free nations everywhere, and we must fight against it unequivocally.

My thoughts are with the bereaved families and the injured at this terrible time.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder has expressed deep concern and has urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to crack down on the incitement that has sparked the recent wave of terror and to condemn the attacks immediately.

“Acts of terror against Israeli Jews have become an almost daily news item,” Lauder said. “As in Paris, the world must show that it will not tolerate such violence and hatred. I urge Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to curb the incitement and clearly condemn this terror.”

“Each and every victim is a brother or a sister, a father or a mother, an innocent human being whose life has been snuffed out in the name of hostile ideology and anger,” Lauder added. “We must not allow this wave of terror to continue. We must put an end to this unnecessary loss of life.”

Two Israelis were killed in the Tel Aviv attack on Thursday, when a Palestinian assailant entered a synagogue and stabbed the victims during afternoon prayers. An Israeli, a Palestinian and an American student died in Gush Etzion hours later, when a Palestinian motorist opened fire on a line of cars before ramming his own vehicle into another car.

The two attacks shattered nearly a week of calm in Israel.  Last Friday, Rabbi Ya’akov Litman and his 18-year-old son Netanel were killed in a shooting near the West Bank settlement of Otniel, en route to a pre-wedding celebration for Litman’s daughter.

The Jewish Agency for Israel said that Ezra Schwartz murdered in today’s terror attack in Gush Etzion was a student at Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh and a participant in Masa Israel Journey.

Chairman of the Executive Natan Sharansky spoke to Ezra’s family and expressed deep condolences on behalf of The Jewish Agency. He also offered any and all assistance to the family during this trying time.

Chairman Sharansky said: “Ezra came to Israel not only to study but also to be a part of the vibrant Israeli experience. This makes his death even more tragic.”

The MASA program is operated in Australia and New Zealand by the Zionist Federation of Australia. President Dr Danny Lamm told J-Wire: “Five more innocent people were mercilessly slaughtered yesterday by Islamic terrorists – this time in Israel. On Thursday afternoon – Israel-time – a knife-wielding Palestinian carried out a stabbing spree at a synagogue in downtown Tel Aviv. Two Israeli civilians – 51-year-old Reuven Avraham and 32-year-old Aaron Yesiav, were killed and three others wounded. Witnesses to the attack attested to Aaron Yesiav’s courage, relating how he shielded other synagogue worshipers with his body.

Later that same day, another Palestinian man – this time armed with an automatic weapon – used his car to create a traffic jam near the Gush Etzion junction south of Jerusalem and then opened fire on nearby vehicles. In this attack another three innocents were murdered, 49-year-old Israeli father of four Ya’akov Don, 18 year-old American yeshiva student Ezra Schwartz and 40-year-old Palestinian Shadi Arafa.

It is utterly unsurprising that Hamas has praised these acts of wanton murder as “heroic”. But we should also not forget that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, now in the 10th year of his four-year elected term of office, recently declared on Palestinian government TV:

We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every Martyr (Shahid) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.”

ZFA President Danny Lamm added: Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of whether perpetrated in Israel or in France. And in light of the myriad drops of blood spilled by Palestinian terrorists over the past 24-hours it’s long past time that President Abbas should be held to account for his incitement to violence.”

The ZFA mourns all the victims of these disgraceful attacks, regardless of their nationality or religious persuasion. May their memories be blessed.”

Dr. Dvir Abramovich, Chairman of Australia’s Anti-Defamation Commission, added: “The heinous and fatal violence directed against Israelis as they go about their daily lives is not ending. We are horrified and outraged over these murderous and reprehensible attacks, part of a two-month destructive and bloody onslaught  of terror that has claimed the lives of many innocents. These unspeakable crimes represent a growing and brutal campaign of murder and incitement by Palestinian media and leaders that is driven by sheer hatred of Jews. The scourge of radical Islamist terrorism, whether in Paris, Gush Etzion or Tel Aviv, is one of the greatest challenges facing the international community and must be condemned and fought in all its forms.

To date,  Palestinian Authority President Abbas has remained silent, resorting instead to fanning the flames of extremism and is  clearly not a serious and  committed partner for peace. Through tears and broken hearts, we extend our profound condolences  to the families of all the victims and offer our support and prayers to the people of Israel in their time of grief and mourning. The ADC stands in solidarity with the government of Israel as it takes all necessary measures to protect its citizens. We urge the Australian government and nations worldwide to demand that President Abbas categorically immediately denounce these despicable acts of violence and cease from further inciting against Israel.”

 

 

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