JERUSALEM - Two Palestinians armed with a meat cleaver and a gun killed four worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday before being shot dead by police, the deadliest such incident in six years in the holy city amid a surge in religious conflict.
Three of the victims held dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship and the fourth man was a British-Israeli national, police said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to respond with a "heavy hand", and again accused Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence in Jerusalem.
Abbas condemned the attack, which comes after weeks of unrest fueled in part by a dispute over Jerusalem's holiest shrine.
A worshipper at the service in the Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of West Jerusalem said about 25 people were praying when shooting broke out.
"I looked up and saw someone shooting people at point-blank range. Then someone came in with what looked like a butcher's knife and he went wild," the witness, Yosef Posternak, told Israel Radio.
Photos distributed by Israeli authorities showed a man in a prayer shawl lying dead, a bloodied butcher's cleaver on the floor and prayer books covered in blood.
"We are viewing this as a terrorist attack," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, who confirmed the four dead and that the two assailants, both from predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, had been shot dead by police.
Israel's ambulance service said at least eight people were seriously wounded.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said it carried out the attack, which it called a "heroic operation".
Israeli police and the U.S. State Department identified one of the dead as Rabbi Mosheh Twersky, who taught at a Jerusalem seminary. Twersky was from a Hassidic rabbinical dynasty and a grandson of Joseph Soloveitchik, a renowned Boston rabbi who died in 1993.
Twersky and two other victims, Aryeh Kupinsky and Cary William Levine, were U.S. citizens, according to the State Department and the Israeli police, which said they were also Israeli nationals. The British-Israeli killed in the attack was named by the police as Avraham Shmuel Goldberg.
In a statement, Abbas said: "The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in one of their places of prayer in West Jerusalem and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it."
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