A man has been taken into custody for allegedly firing a shotgun outside a Jewish temple in New York State, hours before the festival of Hanukkah began on Thursday. The man fired his weapon twice and shouted 'Free Palestine' before he was arrested by the police. No injuries were reported in the incident.
The shooting took place in the state capital of Albany, reported ABC News, amid rising fears of anti-semitism and Israel's escalating offensive against the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip. More than 17,000 people have been killed due to Israeli airstrikes and ground operations and millions displaced.
The 28-year-old shooter was taken to custody shortly after the incident that occurred at around 2 pm outside the Jewish temple. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that he was a local resident. “The prospect of violence in a place of worship is not just an attack on a building, it's an attack on the very fabric of our society, our freedom to express our faith, our collective shared sense of safety,” she said at a briefing.
Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins said that the man dropped the shotgun before officers arrived on the scene and detained him. “We were told by responding officers that he made a comment, ‘Free Palestine,’” Hawkins said, adding that the incident was being investigated as a hate crime and that there was no indication that other people were involved.
Hochul said she directed the state police and New York National Guard to be on high alert and to increase planned patrols of at-risk sites for the holiday. "Any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining public safety at a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah is even more deplorable,” she said.
The Israel-Hamas war
As two months have passed since the deadly Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, Israeli forces have pushed deeper into southern Gaza by striking the southern Gaza town of Rafah twice overnight, sparking concerns that there are no more places for Palestinians to flee. The renewal of fighting happened after a week-long truce, where Hamas released 105 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Heavy fighting in and around the southern city of Khan Younis has displaced tens of thousands of people in a territory where over 80 per cent of the population has already fled their homes and cut most of Gaza off from deliveries of food, water and other vital aid. Rafah, normally home to around 280,000 people, is already hosting more than 470,000 who fled from other parts of Gaza.
As of Thursday, Palestinians remained largely cut off from supplies of food and water as Israeli forces engaged in fierce urban battles with Hamas militants. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres used a rarely exercised power to warn the Security Council of an impending “humanitarian catastrophe,” and Arab and Islamic nations called for a vote Friday on a draft Council resolution demanding a humanitarian ceasefire.
US concern over the devastation also seems to be growing. Before the resumption of hostilities, US officials told Israel it must limit civilian deaths and displacement, saying too many Palestinians were killed when it obliterated much of Gaza City and the north.
In photos and video published on Thursday, at least 100 Palestinian men are seen sitting in rows on a street in northern Gaza, stripped down to their underwear with their heads bowed as they are being guarded by Israeli troops.
(with inputs from agencies)