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Eight arrested in probe of Jewish seminary attack

  • Story Highlights
  • Police aren't saying how the eight may be connected to the gunman or the shooting
  • The shooter killed eight students Thursday before he was shot to death
  • Hundreds of Israelis gathered at the school to mourn the victims
  • Authorities are calling the incident an act of terrorism
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli police have arrested eight people during an investigation into Thursday's deadly attack at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Saturday.

Rosenfeld would not elaborate on the nature of the investigation or how the eight might be connected to the gunman or the shooting.

Eight students, including an American, died Thursday evening after a man armed with an automatic weapon and a handgun slipped into the Merkaz Harav yeshiva.

At least nine others were wounded before an off-duty Israel Defense Forces officer shot and killed the gunman, Jerusalem District Police Cmdr. Aharon Franko said.

A Jerusalem police spokesman identified the shooter Friday as Ala Abu Dehein from East Jerusalem's Jabel Mukaber neighborhood.

He worked as a driver and held an identity card that Israel issues to Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem.

The attack was planned and conceived by the Free Men of Galilee, an operation with purported ties to Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group in Lebanon, sources in Gaza said.

The information was provided to CNN amid news reports that Hamas, the Palestinian movement that runs Gaza, claimed responsibility for the attack.

But the sources said that Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza are not claiming responsibility for the attack and that the Hamas military wing says it had nothing to do with it. Video Watch a report about the conflicting claims »

The sources said the shooter was a member of Hamas but received his marching orders for the action from outside Gaza and the West Bank. Hezbollah is based in Lebanon, and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is exiled in Syria.

A general closure of the West Bank and Gaza went into effect early Friday morning and "will be lifted according to security assessments," a statement from the Israel Defense Forces said.

Negotiations to go on

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel said that Israel will continue peace talks with the Palestinians regardless of the attack in Jerusalem.

A day earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who met with both Israelis and Palestinians, announced that peace talks would resume between the two both sides.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had suspended peace negotiations last week after fierce fighting broke out between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. But he agreed to resume negotiations after meeting with Rice.

On Saturday, an Israeli official said that continuing peace talks did not signal a change in policy, because Israel had not stopped them.

Hundreds of Israelis gathered at the yeshiva Friday to mourn the victims of Thursday's attack. The grief-stricken crowd spilled outside the school and onto the surrounding streets.

The students' bodies were wrapped in white-and-blue cloth and laid on benches in the school's courtyard before being taken for burial.

Police are trying to figure out how the gunman managed to enter the large three-story school -- situated in a bustling residential neighborhood -- with little notice. The gunman carried an AK-47 and a pistol, and he had time to swap weapons during the attack.

Authorities are calling the incident an act of terrorism.

The school is one of the largest seminaries in Israel, with about 500 students in the yeshiva and 200 in an advanced graduate program.

The attack was the worst inside Israel since April 17, 2006, when a suicide bombing outside a restaurant in Tel Aviv killed nine people.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the blast.

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Eight people were wounded August 10 in Jerusalem's Old City when a Palestinian resident grabbed a security guard's gun and fired.

Four Israeli security guards were wounded May 26 when two Palestinian gunmen began firing in east Jerusalem. All three of the assailants were killed. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.

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