Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Shooter fired at a crowded bar in Tel Aviv, 2 killed and several injured

Ariel Shalit and Joseph Krauss, Associated Press

Published Thursday, April 7, 2022 2:53 PM EDT

Last updated Thursday, April 7, 2022 6:08 PM EDT

TEL AVIV, Israel ( Associated Press) – An attacker opened fire on a crowded restaurant district in central Tel Aviv on Thursday evening, killing at least two people and injuring several others before fleeing into a dense residential area , Israeli officials said.

Police said there were “signs” that it was a politically motivated attack – the fourth deadliest attack in Israel in less than three weeks at a time of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. The militant Hamas group, which rules the Gaza Strip, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility.

Hours after the shooting, the suspected gunman fled. Hundreds of Israeli police officers, canine units, and army special forces were conducting a massive search operation in central Tel Aviv, searching the building through densely populated residential areas.

Tel Aviv police commander Amichai Ished said the shooter opened fire at a crowded bar around 9 p.m. and then fled the scene.

“Our working assumption is that he is still in the vicinity,” he told reporters. “At the moment, we are pointing out that this is a terrorist attack, but I have to be very sensitive about this and say that we are looking for other clues as well.”

Israel’s Magan David Adom emergency service said it had received reports of shootings at “multiple scenes” around the city of Tel Aviv. It said two people aged about 30 years died. Another seven people were injured, of whom three are in critical condition.

At least one shootout occurred on the central main street, Dizengoff Street. Dizengoff Street has been the scene of several deadly attacks over the years. Most recently, an Arab citizen of Israel shot dead two Israelis in the street in January 2016 and injured several others.

The popular nightlife area was packed on Thursday evening, the start of the Israeli weekend.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with top security officials late Thursday, and they agreed to “continue large-scale reinforcements to Tel Aviv”, his office said in a statement.

Tensions have escalated after 11 people were killed in attacks by Palestinian bombers just before the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, which began nearly a week ago. Last year, protests and clashes in Jerusalem during Ramadan ignited the 11-day Gaza War.

Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a flurry of meetings in recent weeks, and Israel has taken a series of steps aimed at quelling tensions, including issuing thousands of additional work permits to Palestinians from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip .

Before the attack, Israel said it would allow more than 40 women, children and men from the occupied West Bank to offer prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on Friday, the first weekly prayer of Ramadan. Thousands were expected to attend it.

The mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and is located on top of a hill that is the holiest site for Jews, who call it Temple Mount. The holy site has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Israel has in recent years worked to sidestep the Palestinian issue, instead focusing on building alliances with Arab states against Iran. But the age-old struggle remains as unshakable as ever.

In the 1967 Middle East war, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinians want all three regions to build their future state. The last serious and substantive peace talks broke down more than a decade ago, and Prime Minister Bennett is opposed to the Palestinian state.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move recognized internationally and considers the entire city as its capital. It is building and expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which most of the international community considers illegal.

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

Hamas spokesman Abdeltif al-Qanu said late Thursday that “the heroic attack in the heart of the (Israeli) unit has affected the Zionist security system and proved our people’s ability to inflict damage on the occupation.”

On March 29, a 27-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank systematically shot people in the central city of Bnei Brak, killing five. Two days earlier, two police officers were killed in an attack by Islamic State sympathizers in the central city of Hadera. A week ago in the southern city of Beersheba, an IS sympathizer killed four people after ramming into a car and stabbing them. The Hadera and Beersheba attacks were carried out by Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Recent attacks appear to have been carried out by attackers alone, perhaps with the help of allies. No Palestinian terrorist group has claimed them, although Hamas has welcomed the attacks.

Israel says the conflict stems from the Palestinians’ refusal to acknowledge its existence as a Jewish state and blames the attacks on provocation on social media. Palestinians say such attacks are the inevitable result of nearly 55 years of military occupation that shows no signs of ending.

Cross reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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