Four people were killed and three injured by a man who opened fire Monday on clients and employees of a Beersheba bank.
The incident was apparently a revenge attack against the bank over a financial dispute, police said. The shooter was identified as Itamar Alon, 40, an unemployed and single local resident.
The incident ended after the attacker shot and killed himself following an hour-long standoff with police.
The victims were identified as branch manager Avner Cohen, 44; bank worker Meir Zeitoun, 40, and customer Anat Even Haim, 34, and Idan Shnitzer Savri, 22.
Police sources said Alon was a former captain in the border police who had previously worked as a security coordinator for the city’s local educational institutions. He had a permit for his gun, but it was not clear why that permit had been extended, since he stopped working in security more than a decade ago, Channel 2 news reported.
The attacker took a female hostage before shooting himself during the standoff.
The incident began at around noon at a Bank Hapoalim branch on Jabotinsky Boulevard.
Alon began shooting more than an hour after he entered the bank for the second time in the day. Earlier, he had been unable to take out money from the bank’s ATM, and had entered the branch to talk to staff, but was denied a further credit line because of his overdraft, which amounted to several tens of thousands of shekels. He went to his home nearby, picked up his gun and three magazines of ammunition, went back to the branch and shot and killed Cohen, who had recently taken over the branch, as well as Zeitoun, who was his loan officer, and the two other victims.
He eventually took bank worker Miri Cohen hostage, dragging her to the bathroom before eventually shooting himself.
A witness told Walla news he saw the attacker shoot somebody outside the bank, go inside, and then come back out and shoot the person again.
According to a witness who was inside the bank during the incident, the suspect shot a bystander, then reloaded and fired again to make sure his victim was dead.
“I heard some shots, I think three or four… We went to the office to see what happened after we heard them, and there were two people lying on the floor surrounded by blood,” a witness who works near the scene of the shooting was quoted as saying.
Doron Ben Amo, deputy commander of the southern district of the police, told Walla news it appeared the man yelled “robbery” before opening fire.
Yohanan Peiser, deputy director of Soroka Hospital, said that one man was undergoing surgery for gunshot wounds in the abdomen and chest.
The man was in moderate condition, Peiser told Channel 2.
Negev District Police Commander Peretz Amar said the gunman was engaged in a standoff with police before he shot and killed himself. The standoff reportedly lasted an hour.
“We tried to negotiate and we couldn’t — he did not communicate with us,” he said.
Israel Radio reported officials believe the man may have been mentally ill. A neighbor told Channel 2 he was clearly “a dangerous man,” who spent hours pacing his balcony. She said he had been briefly detained by police some time ago for fiddling with the apartment building’s air-conditioning.
Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said that the incident was not motivated by “nationalistic hatred” and the shooter was Jewish.
“The suspect who committed suicide at the end of the standoff is apparently a Jewish resident of Beersheba. Right now we are not in the possession of facts confirming there were other suspects,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the shooting a “tragedy” and said he “doesn’t remember an incident like this, certainly not in the last few years,” Israel Radio reported.