Jerusalem (AFP) - A Palestinian gunman killed seven people outside an east Jerusalem synagogue on Friday, Israeli police said, in a dramatic escalation of violence that followed a deadly raid in the West Bank a day earlier.
The shooting in Neve Yaakov, a Jewish settler neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, came even as international calls for calm mounted after Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip traded missile fire earlier Friday.
Police said that at around 8:15 pm (1815 GMT), "a terrorist arrived at a synagogue in the Neve Yaakov boulevard in Jerusalem and proceeded to shoot at a number of people in the area.
"Seven innocent people were slaughtered," police said, adding: "At the end of a shootout and a chase between the police and the terrorist, the terrorist was neutralised and later pronounced dead."
Police have identified the gunman as a 21-year-old resident of east Jerusalem.
The Magen David Adom emergency response service reported a total of 10 gunshot victims, including a 70-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy.
Speaking to the media at the scene, Israel police commissioner Kobi Shabtai called it "one of the worst attacks we have encountered in recent years."
Shalom Borohov, a barber who lives near the synagogue, told AFP that after hearing gunshots he "went down to help people".
"I saw the terrorist arriving with his car.He stopped in the middle of the junction, and shot from his car," continuing to shoot as people came to the scene to help, he said.
Palestinians celebrated the killings with rallies in several parts of the West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, AFP reporters said.
Israel's extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attended the scene shortly after, an AFP photographer reported.
He was followed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was met by a crowd chanting: "Death to Arabs", an AFP correspondent said.
Police were dismantling a white vehicle believed to have belonged to the shooter.
The United States condemned the "absolutely horrific" attack.
"Our commitment to Israel's security remains ironclad, and we are in direct touch with our Israeli partners," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.
Just hours earlier, Washington had urged "de-escalation" over the West Bank violence and Gaza rocket fire.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who was on a family visit to the US, has cut short his trip and is returning to Israel, his office told AFP.
Nine people had been killed Thursday in what Israel described as a "counter-terrorism" operation in the West Bank's Jenin refugee camp.
It was one of the deadliest Israeli army raids in the occupied West Bank since the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, of 2000 to 2005.
Israel said Islamic Jihad operatives were the target.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas both vowed to retaliate, later firing several rockets at Israeli territory.
Most of the rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defences.The military responded with strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.
There were no injuries reported on either side, but Gaza's armed groups have vowed further action.
The United Nations human rights office had called earlier for an end to the "endless cycle of violence" in the West Bank, saying on Twitter that it "must end".
Thursday's violence prompted the Palestinian Authority to announce it was cutting security coordination with Israel, a move criticised by the United States.
Wisam Bakr, director of the Jenin Government Hospital, said there was a "state of panic" in the paediatric ward, with some children suffering from tear gas inhalation.
The Israeli military told AFP "the activity was not far away from the hospital, and it is possible some tear gas entered through an open window".
Thursday's deaths brought the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank this year to 30, including fighters and civilians, most of whom were shot by Israeli forces.
Washington announced on Thursday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would travel next week to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will push for an "end to the cycle of violence".
State Department spokesman confirmed on Friday that the visit would go ahead and said Blinken would discuss "steps to be taken to de-escalate tensions".
The mounting tolls follow the deadliest year in the Palestinian territory recorded by the UN.
At least 26 Israelis and 200 Palestinians were killed across Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2022, the majority in the West Bank, according to an AFP tally from official sources.