I knew the attacker's face. It was nearly the last one I saw


A doctor has told of the moment he came face-to-face with one of the terrorists behind the Kehilat Bnei Torah Synagogue massacre.

Oncologist Yitzhak Hesching was deep in prayer when two terrorists, armed with knives and machetes, burst in during the morning minyan, lashing out and killing four as worshippers ran for their lives.

He managed to flee before police marksmen shot them dead during a brief firefight. But he was close enough to see them clearly - and even recognised one of them.

"I saw his face very clearly," he said. "I had seen him before. He was a worker in the area."

He described the moment the men burst in.

"They were shouting 'Allahu Akbar'. They had a gun, knives and a cleaver. I think they had killed on the way in," he said.

"The guy with the cleaver was coming after me and I saw the other guy reloading his gun.

"I was thinking about saving my life. I was about to be killed. He was coming at me with a knife. I worked in a very basic, instinctive way to avoid dying.

"I pushed tables at him and moved to where I was able to get away."

Mr Hesching, who works at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, was taken to hospital and given two stitches. On Wednesday, he returned to morning prayers at the shul in West Jerusalem's Har Nof neighbourhood.

"It felt very emotional that there was a big crowd and gave me an impetus to carry on. It's sinking in, but I'm going back to life and back to work."

Five Jews were murdered, including British Charedi man Abraham Goldberg, from Liverpool.

Another witness, Yaakov Amos, a trauma therapist, was in the middle of the Amidah prayer when he heard the gunshots and turned to see "a Jew in phylacteries" on the floor.

A former infantryman in the Givati Brigade, Mr Amos told Times of Israel that the gunman did not fire wildly into the congregation but "closed the gap", running up to victims and shooting them "in the head, point-blank".

He ducked behind the shtender, and managed to stumble out through the open synagogue doors and ran across the street to his family.

Joseph Pasternak, a father of eight originally from Argentina, was also in the shul during the attack.

He said he saw a man throw a chair at the gunman. "I saw people lying on the floor, blood everywhere. People were trying to fight with them but they didn't have much of a chance," he said.

Sarah Abrams, a mother of five, was walking past the shul just after the attack. "There were people running from the synagogue, and a man sitting on the pavement covered in blood," she told ToI. "Two people came out with their faces half missing, looking like they'd been attacked with knives."

On the scene after the attack was a British volunteer for the rescue charity Zaka. Yossi Frankel, a Londoner who moved to Jerusalem two years ago, described with disbelief what he saw at the shul: "One of the guys had his arm amputated with his tefillin on it.

"It was very chaotic, with two dead terrorists outside the synagogue and the victims inside. It reminded us of the Holocaust - people with tefillin on the floor in a pool of their own blood."

The attack was the first of its kind in living memory on an Israeli shul.

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