Israeli security forces say they hunted down and killed early on Friday a Palestinian man who had opened fire into a crowded bar in central Tel Aviv, killing two and wounding over 10 in an attack that caused scenes of mass panic in the heart of the bustling city.
It was the fourth deadly attack in Israel by Palestinians in three weeks, and came at a time of heightened tensions around the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Later in the day, thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank were set to enter Jerusalem for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was set to convene with top security officials on Friday morning. It was not immediately clear whether Israel would proceed or alter its plan to allow Palestinian worshippers to enter Jerusalem. Protests and clashes in the holy city during Ramadan last year eventually ignited an 11-day Gaza war.
“We will widen our actions against the wave of terror through offense, defense and intelligence,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said ahead of the meeting. “The price that we will extract from the attackers and those who send them will be heavy.”
Thursday’s shooting took place in a crowded bar on Dizengoff Street, a central thoroughfare that has seen other attacks over the years. Thursday night is the beginning of the Israeli weekend, and the area was packed with people in bars and restaurants.
In videos spread on social media, dozens of terrified people were seen running through the streets as police searched for the attacker and ordered people to stay indoors.
Hundreds of Israeli police officers, canine units, and army special forces, had conducted a massive manhunt throughout the night across Tel Aviv, searching building by building through densely populated residential neighborhoods.
Early Friday, authorities said they found the attacker hiding near a mosque in Jaffa, an Arab neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv, and killed him in a shootout.
Israeli police chief Kobi Shabtai said his forces, the army and the Shin Bet security agency had spent a “difficult night” tracking down the assailant.
“We succeeded this morning, through intelligence and operational cooperation, to close the circle and to kill the terrorist in a shootout,” he said.
The Shin Bet identified the attacker as Raad Hazem, a 28-year-old Palestinian man from Jenin, in the occupied West Bank.
It indicated he had acted alone, saying he did not belong to an organized militant group and had no prior record. It said he had entered Israel illegally without a permit.
After Thursday’s attack, 13 Israelis have been killed in recent weeks, making this one of the worst waves of violence in years.
The militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip praised the attack but did not claim responsibility.