JERUSALEM — Eight students who died Thursday when an Arab gunman attacked their religious school were buried Friday as Israelis and Palestinians braced for things to get worse.
A river of mourners accompanied the bodies from the bullet-scarred school to their funerals, where they were buried alongside blood-stained Torah scrolls.
Over the last seven days, Israel and the Palestinians have absorbed stunning blows that have shaken hopes that U.S.-promoted peace talks could at least delay a new spiral of violence.
"We are heading into very dangerous times," said Mohammed Masri, the former head of the Palestinian Authority's intelligence services in Gaza who now runs the Palestinian Center for Research and Strategic Studies in Ramallah, in the West Bank. "If the Israelis are not aware of this, then I don't rule out the possibility of a third uprising."
The attacker's family identified him Friday as Alaa Abu Dheim, a 25-year-old chauffeur for a private firm who held an Israeli identification card.
Authorities wouldn't say whether Abu Dheim, whom police killed Thursday, was an Israeli citizen or a Jerusalem resident with more limited rights.
The mere fact that he came from East Jerusalem, however, fueled hostility toward its 250,000 Arab residents, who often live uneasily in the parts of the city that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.
At one of the funerals, Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter reportedly told mourners that Arabs in East Jerusalem who were involved in militant activity should be stripped of their Israeli IDs and expelled to the West Bank.
Police searched Abu Dheim's East Jerusalem house Friday in an attempt to determine where he got the machine gun he used, whether he'd worked alone and why he chose to attack a landmark religious school that's been an intellectual incubator for Israel's religious settlement movement.
The sponsor of the attack, if there was one, remained unclear Friday.
Hezbollah's television station in Beirut, Lebanon, reported Thursday that an unknown group had conducted the attack to avenge last month's assassination of Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, Syria.
On Friday, several mosques in Gaza City aligned with the militant Islamist group Hamas said that Hamas was behind the attack, but the group disassociated itself from the claims.
Even so, Hamas leaders encouraged celebrations Thursday night in Gaza by hailing the attack as a heroic response to Israel's recent military crackdowns.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, called the shooting a "defining moment" in the conflict that had unmasked Hamas' attempts to subvert peace talks.
Amid warnings that the shooting might be part of a new escalation in Palestinian violence, Israel Police Chief Dudi Cohen said it was the work of one gunman, not a spark for a Palestinian uprising, the Haaretz newspaper reported.
"I think it's possible that a month from now we'll look back and say the attack last night was a turning point, but you can't say that now," said Yossi Alpher, a co-founder of the bitterlemons.org political Web site and a former senior official with Israel's spy agency. "At this point it has to be treated as an isolated incident and not some significant change in Israeli-Palestinian relations."
The shooting was the latest development in what may be a new violent cycle.
In the last seven days, Gaza militants trained a concentrated barrage of new rockets on Israel's southernmost coastal city for the first time, and the Israeli military staged a military operation in Gaza that killed more 100 Palestinians, including 25 Gazans younger than 18. More than half of the Palestinians were killed last Saturday, making it the single deadliest day in years.
In protest, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called a temporary halt to peace negotiations with Israel. The developments transformed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's previously planned Middle East visit Tuesday into a diplomatic rescue mission.
With Rice's prodding, Abbas agreed to resume talks with Israel, but he didn't say when negotiations would get back on track.
Then came Thursday night's shooting, which left eight Israeli students dead, seven teenagers and a 26-year-old.
Zalman Shoval, a onetime Israeli ambassador to the United States, said the attack could pave the way for the military to crack down in Gaza.
"The Gaza situation would have been ripe for an Israeli intervention anyway," Shoval said. "And, after what happened in Jerusalem, it may be easier."