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As Nairobi mall crisis nears end, Netanyahu offers condolences to Kenya

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his condolences to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta over the al-Qaida-linked terror attack on a mall in Nairobi.

“Israel empathizes with the Kenyan people’s pain and with your own personal loss due to the terror attack,” Netanyahu said in a phone conversation on Monday night, according to his office. “We value your nation’s determined struggle against terrorism.”

The call came as security forces at the upscale Westgate mall worked to secure the area, free hostages and apprehend the terrorists.

At least 62 people are known killed in the attack and siege that began on Saturday, though the death toll could rise once the siege is completely over. Among the victims were Kenyatta’s nephew and the nephew’s fiance.

An explosion and gunfire were heard in the mall early  Tuesday, The Associated Press reported, despite Kenyan government reports that the crisis was over.

Kenya’s Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said that two to three Americans and a British citizen of Arab origin were among the gunmen.

The French news agency AFP reported that Israel agents were involved in the rescue operations, which was neither confirmed nor denied by Israeli officials.

One Israeli was injured and three others escaped harm, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Several Americans also were injured.

Militants from al Shabab, a Somalia-based terror group linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack. Al Shabab said the attack was revenge for Kenya’s military operations in Somalia that began nearly two years ago.

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