At least two people are dead and a further eight wounded after a suspected terrorist opened fire on a crowd in central Tel Aviv on Thursday night before escaping on foot, Israeli police have said. 

Mayor Ron Huldai said the shooting, at the start of the weekend in Israel, was suspected to have been carried out by an Arab attacker with ‘nationalistic’ motives who entered a pub and opened fire. 

Police said there were ‘indications’ it was a politically motivated attack – the fourth deadly assault in Israel in less than three weeks at a time of heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions. 

The militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip praised the attack, celebrating the ‘heroic’ killing of ‘occupying soldiers and Zionist settlers’ – but did not claim responsibility. 

Hours after the shooting, the suspected gunman remained at large. Hundreds of Israeli police officers, canine units, and army special forces were conducting a massive manhunt in central Tel Aviv, searching building by building through the densely populated residential neighborhoods. 

Terrified civilians were filmed desperately fleeing the scene of carnage along Dizengoff Street, one of the Israeli city’s busiest streets packed with bars and restaurants.  

Within minutes of the attack, police spokesman Eli Levy told Channel 13 television: ‘A terrorist opened fire at short range and then fled on foot. Several people are wounded.’  

Local tensions have been sky-high after a series of attacks by Palestinian assailants killed 11 people just ahead of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, which began nearly a week ago. Last year, protests and clashes during Ramadan ignited an 11-day Gaza war. 

Israeli security and rescue personnel work by the entrance to a restaurant following an incident in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 7, 2022 

First responders arrive at the scene of a shooting attack at a cafe in Israel's Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv, April 7, 2022

First responders arrive at the scene of a shooting attack at a cafe in Israel’s Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv, April 7, 2022 

 

A woman reacts at the scene of a shooting attack In Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, April 7, 2022

A woman reacts at the scene of a shooting attack In Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, April 7, 2022 

People flee in panic as a suspected terrorist opened fire in the middle of Tel Aviv

People flee in panic as a suspected terrorist opened fire in the middle of Tel Aviv

Security forces gather at the scene of a shooting attack in Dizengoff Street in the centre of Israel's Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv,  April 7, 2022

Security forces gather at the scene of a shooting attack in Dizengoff Street in the centre of Israel’s Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv,  April 7, 2022

Israeli security personnel work near the scene of a fatal shooting attack near a bar in Tel Aviv, April 7, 2022

Israeli security personnel work near the scene of a fatal shooting attack near a bar in Tel Aviv, April 7, 2022

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was monitoring the situation from the Israeli military headquarters, which is also in downtown Tel Aviv, his office said. 

Outside a cafe, a man comforted a woman sitting on a bar stool as heavily armed police deployed nearby.

Witnesses told AFP they had heard gunshots.

Brenda Ehrlich, 31, an insurance agent from the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon, said she learnt of the attack as she rode a bus into the city to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

‘I feel in a state of alert,’ she said, as she and her friends took cover.

‘I feel like I need to look in all directions to not be caught by surprise. We were thinking of heading home but it feels a little dangerous so we might stay inside in Tel Aviv before we go home,’ Ehrlich added.

Ichilov Hospital said two people have died and another eight are in the hospital’s trauma wounded. Four of those are in ‘critical condition’ and undergoing surgery, a spokesman added. 

Live footage from Israel’s Kan broadcaster showed police flooding the area and training their guns on the upper story of a building. It also showed an explosion of some kind.

In a statement, police asked residents to stay inside during the incident ‘which is still ongoing.’ 

The gunman escaped on foot and it still at large, with heavily-armed Israeli security forces patrolling the area in force

The gunman escaped on foot and it still at large, with heavily-armed Israeli security forces patrolling the area in force

Security forces take aim at the scene of a shooting attack in Dizengoff Street. At least two have died in the attacks

Security forces take aim at the scene of a shooting attack in Dizengoff Street. At least two have died in the attacks

Security forces gather at the scene of a shooting attack in Dizengoff Street in the centre of Israel's Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv, April 7, 2022

Security forces gather at the scene of a shooting attack in Dizengoff Street in the centre of Israel’s Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv, April 7, 2022

The gunman is reported to have opened fire on crowds in a busy tourist district of Tel Aviv, packed with bars and restaurants. Above: People hug at the entrance to a bar near the scene of the fatal shooting

The gunman is reported to have opened fire on crowds in a busy tourist district of Tel Aviv, packed with bars and restaurants. Above: People hug at the entrance to a bar near the scene of the fatal shooting

Tensions have been high after a series of attacks by Palestinian assailants killed 11 people just ahead of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, which began nearly a week ago. Above: Security personnel at the scene

Tensions have been high after a series of attacks by Palestinian assailants killed 11 people just ahead of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, which began nearly a week ago. Above: Security personnel at the scene

Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service said it received reports of a shooting at ‘several scenes’ around downtown Tel Aviv. 

At least one shooting took place on Dizengoff Street, a central thoroughfare and popular weekend hangout. Police urged people to avoid the area. 

Dizengoff Street has been the scene of several deadly attacks over the years. Most recently, an Arab citizen of Israel shot and killed two Israelis and wounded several others on the street in January 2016.   

Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a flurry of meetings in recent weeks, and Israel has taken a number of steps aimed at calming tensions, including issuing thousands of additional work permits for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.

Prior to the attack, Israel had said it would allow women, children and men over 40 from the occupied West Bank to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem on Friday, the first weekly prayers of Ramadan. Tens of thousands were expected to attend.

The mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and sits on a hilltop that is the most sacred site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. The holy site has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future state.

The last serious and substantive peace talks broke down more than a decade ago, and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposed to Palestinian statehood.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally and considers the entire city to be its capital.

It withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but along with neighbouring Egypt it imposed a crippling blockade on the territory after the militant Hamas group seized power from rival Palestinian forces two years later. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since then.



Source link