Five people have been shot dead by a Palestinian gunman in a suburb of the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, in the third deadly attack of its kind in a week. It happened in Bnei Brak, one of the country’s most populous ultra-Orthodox Jewish areas. The gunman was shot dead by police, a paramedic at the scene said.
Israel security forces were on high alert after attacks by Israeli Arabs last Tuesday and Sunday, which left six people dead.
Footage from the scene in Bnei Brak showed the attacker dressed in black shooting at people with a rifle on a street and killing the driver of a passing car. Police said an officer who shot the gunman was among the dead. The attacker has been identified as a 26-year-old Palestinian from a village near Jenin, in the north of the occupied West Bank, who had previously been jailed in Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held an emergency security meeting and his security cabinet will convene on Wednesday. “Israel is facing a wave of murderous Arab terrorism,” he said. “The security forces are operating. We will fight terror with perseverance, stubbornness and an iron fist.” Former prime minister and current opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel was “in the midst of a dangerous wave of terrorism that we have not seen for many years… Determined action must be taken to restore peace and security to the citizens of Israel”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the attack. “This violence is unacceptable,” he said. “Israelis – like all people around the world – should be able to live in peace and without fear.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the killings of the Israelis and warned that the attack might lead to escalation at a time when “we are striving for stability”.
However, the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, praised the attack, saying: “We express our blessing to the Tel Aviv operation.” Security had already been stepped up across Israel and in the West Bank in the wake of the two previous attacks.
The first was carried out by an Israeli Arab who had planned to join the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and had served a jail sentence for security crimes. The attacker drove his car into a cyclist, killing him, then stabbed three people to death outside a shopping centre in the southern city of Beersheba.
Five days later, two other Israeli Arabs opened fire at a bus stop in the northern city of Hadera, killing two 19-year-old police officers. IS said it was behind that attack. All three assailants were shot dead.
There had been fears of further incidents in the month ahead, when the Muslim festival of Ramadan, the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian festival of Easter coincide in a rare convergence.