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Blinken Israel Visit Complicated by Jerusalem Terror Attacks, Drone Strike

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JERUSALEM, Israel – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Israel today, and his visit is being overshadowed by the worst weekend of terror attacks in Israel in a decade.

To complicate the visit further, Israel may have carried out a drone strike near a nuclear facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan Sunday.

Over the weekend, Israel's Security Cabinet announced a series of tough new measures against Palestinian terrorists and their supporters. 

Just as Israelis were eating Friday evening's Sabbath meal, a Palestinian gunman open fire in Jerusalem and killed 7 people, wounding 3 others.  The dead ranged in age from 14 to 68, including a couple who tried to help the victims. 

The attack took place outside the Ateret Avraham Synagogue in the Jerusalem suburb of Neve Yaakov. It was a night when Israel and the world were commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Avraham Levy, a teacher at the synagogue's affiliated Sha'arei Tzion school, described the incident to CBN News.

“Very difficult for us," he said. "I talk with some friend here. They said it was very, very heavy. They hear the shot. One of them go down to see what happened and he lost his life.” 

After the shootings, Palestinians celebrated in Gaza with fireworks and by handing out sweets.

Another attack took place Saturday in the City of David when a 13-year-old Palestinian boy fired at a Jewish family, wounding the father and the son. The attacker was shot and wounded when the family returned fire.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced new steps to increase security.

“On the one hand, we are increasing the deployment and activity of the security forces, and on the other hand we are exacting a heavy price from terror perpetrators and their supporters,” Netanyahu said.

He also addressed measures in biblical Judea and Samaria, (the West Bank).   

“We will soon decide on steps to strengthen settlements in Judea and Samaria in order to convey a message to the terrorists that seek to uproot us from our land that we are here to stay," Netanyahu explained.

Other steps include revoking Israeli identity cards and residency of terrorists' families and expanding and expediting weapons permits for thousands of Israeli civilians.

The deadly weekend will likely change Secretary Blinken's agenda, according to CBN News Senior Editor, John Waage.

"Before the visit, there was a lot of talk about judicial reform," Waage said. "There was a lot of talk – can we revive the two-state solution or bring it up a level? I think that’s pretty much out the window for this visit.  What he has to do now is... indicating support for Israel, indicating horror that the terror attacks happened, and trying to urge both sides to calm the tensions down. I really think that’s become the primary goal now," he added.      

Blinken is due to meet with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on Monday, and with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Tuesday.

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