Two ultra-Orthodox Jews Killed in Terror Attack in Jerusalem's Old City

Two more wounded after attacked on way to Western Wall; terrorist shot dead by security forces.

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Two ultra-Orthodox Jewish men were killed and two others, including a toddler, were wounded in an attack in the Old City in Jerusalem on Saturday. Israeli security forces shot and killed the man identified as the terrorist.

The two men were identified as Nehemia Lavi, 41, of Jerusalem and Aharon Bennett, 21, of Beitar Illit.

Bennett's wife, 22, is in serious condition and their son, 2, suffered light wounds.They were evacuated to Jerusalem-area hospitals where they are receiving medical care.

The Bennetts and their two children were on their way to the Western Wall when they were attacked. According to witnesses, Lavi was attacked when he tried to help the family. The second child, a few months old, wasn't hurt.

Lavi, a rabbi at the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva, left behind a wife and seven children.

Aharon Bennett, 21, (left) and Nehemia Lavi, 41, were killed in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on October 3, 2015. Credit: Courtesy

According to the police, after the stabbing, the assailant shot at police officers who rushed to the scene using a gun he obtained from one of the wounded. He was then shot and killed by the officers.

The attacker was identified as Mohannad Hallabi, a 19-year-old Palestinian law student at Al-Quds University from a village near Ramallah. A number of days ago he posted an image on his Facebook page of Diaa Talhama, a Palestinian who also studies at Al Quds University, who was killed near Hebron two weeks ago. On his Facebook page, Hallabi wrote that the Palestinian people would not accept Israel's attacks on the Al Quds Mosque in Jerusalem's Temple Mount and that the third intifada has already begun.

Following the attack, several violent incidents targeting Arabs were reported in Jerusalem. In one case, a member of the far-right Lehava group sprayed tear gas in a Palestinian's face at the Mamilla Mall. In another, a scuffle developed when several members of Lehava stormed a café in search for Arab employees.

Scene of the stabbing in Jerusalem's Old City, October 3, 2015.Credit: Courtesy

The incidents took place after the police stopped several activists who gathered at Zion Square from marching toward the scene of the attack.

The Prime Minister's Office said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently in the U.S. for the UN General Assembly, will convene an emergency meeting with the heads of Israel's security branches as soon as he returns to Israel on Sunday. On Monday he will convene his security cabinet together with the head of the Shin Bet and interim Israel Police chief to discuss Israel's response to the recent escalation.

Chairman of the opposition, MK Isaac Herzog, responded to the attack, sending his condolences to the family and blasting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for "losing control of Israel's security." According to Herzog, the "government has no plan to fight terror" as Israel faces what he called "the beginning of the third intifada." He urged the government to take harsher legal steps against terrorists and not make do with "slogans and empty words."

The incident is the latest development in the growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. On Thursday, an Israeli couple was shot dead in their car while their four children were in the back in the West Bank. Israeli troops have been combing the Nablus area for the attackers.

Tensions have flared between Israelis and Palestinians in recent weeks in Jerusalem, with much of the unrest focused on Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, site of the Al-Aqsa mosque.

There have been several days of clashes at the site over the past few weeks as Muslim protesters barricaded themselves inside the mosque while hurling stones and fireworks at police. The unrest spread to Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, where Palestinian protesters hurled stones at police and Israeli cars.

An Israeli died on the eve of Rosh Hashanah when Palestinians pelted his car with rocks and several others were injured in other incidents. Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces in violence that followed the Jerusalem unrest then. Israel responded last week by approving harsher measures that would loosen the rules of engagement for police to respond to stone throwers.

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