At least five people were killed in a shooting on Tuesday evening in a suburb of Tel Aviv in the third such attack in Israel over the last seven days, bringing the total number of Israeli deaths to eleven in the recent terror attacks.
In a stern message following the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed to deal with such attacks with an “iron fist”, prompting the Israeli police to go to the highest level of alert.
“Israel is facing a wave of murderous Arab terrorism…The security forces are at work. We will fight terrorism with persistence, diligence and an iron fist”, Bennett said in a statement.
“They will not move us from here. We will prevail,” the Israeli PM vowed.
A police spokesman said that the shooting took place in two different areas in Bnei Brak near Tel aviv.
One of the victims is said to be a police officer who was trying to stop the attacker, while the rest were civilians.
Israeli Prime Minister Bennett held a security consultation on Tuesday evening to discuss the chain of events in the terrorist attacks in Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan earlier, the PM’s foreign media adviser said in a statement.
“The immediate operational steps to be taken by the security forces were also discussed”, the statement said.
Bennett will convene the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (the Security Cabinet) Wednesday afternoon.
The Defense Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Public Security Minister, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Chief-of-Staff, the Director of the Israel Security Agency, the Israel Police Inspector General, the Director of the National Security Council, the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary, the head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate, the head of the IDF Operations Directorate and some other officials participated in the discussions.
In a recorded message released by the PM’s office, Bennett said that these are difficult days for Israel but with determination we will prevail this time as well.
“Every few years the State of Israel deals with a wave of terrorism. After a period of quiet, there is a violent eruption by those who want to destroy us, those who want to hurt us at any price, whose hatred of Jews, of the State of Israel, drives them crazy. They are prepared to die � so that we will not live in peace”, the Israeli Prime Minister said.
“We are currently dealing with a new wave of terrorism. What we witnessed less than a year ago in Operation Guardians of the Walls, the terrorism and the violence, from within Israel and inside Israel, was the first sign. This is a great and complex challenge…..that requires the security establishment to be creative and for us to adapt ourselves to the new threat and read the tell-tale signs of lone individuals, sometimes without organizational affiliation, and to be in control on the ground in order to thwart terrorism even before it happens”, he added.
“The security forces of the State of Israel are the best in the world. They are up to the task and, as in the previous waves, we will prevail this time as well”, he asserted.
Footage from the terror attack scene showed the assailant entering a convenience store armed with an assault rifle and firing at a young man, who is seen escaping into a nearby building.
The shooter then aimed his rifle at another person riding on a bike, but missed, and then opened fire at a passing car. The car came to a stop after the initial fire, at which point the assailant came closer to it and fired through the window at the driver, who was killed.
Police said that the assailant was shot at the scene by a police officer.
The shooter was named as Diaa Hamarsheha, a 26-year-old Palestinian from Ya’bad, near Jenin, in the West Bank. He had apparently been in Israel illegally.
He is said to have been arrested by Israel in 2013 for security offenses and also served a six-month sentence.
Israeli Police were looking for other suspects amid warning by Ramat Gan Mayor, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, to the city’s residents not to leave their homes if not absolutely necessary.
There have been two more terror attacks in Israel in the southern city of Beersheba and the northern city of Holon over the past one week.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz convened a situational assessment with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) chief of staff, the head of the Shin Bet security service, the head of military intelligence and the head of the military’s operations division.
The Israeli security cabinet will hold a meeting on Wednesday regarding the attack.
An official for Islamic Hamas in the Gaza Strip said that the organization “welcomes the heroic operation, which is a natural response to the crimes of the occupation against the Palestinian people.”
“This is also a swift response to the shameful summit that was held in the south”, he said referring to the Negev Summit in which Israel hosted a number of Arab foreign ministers.
No group has yet taken responsibility for the shooting.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, saying that killings of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians might lead to escalation, at a “time in which we are striving for stability” ahead of Ramadan, Passover and Easter.