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Massive manhunt for Tel Aviv gunman

More than three hours after a gunman opened fire on cafes and bars in and around Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, killing at least two people, the gunman is still on the loose, and the police are still not saying what they believe was his motivation. It could be an act of terrorism, a criminal killing, or the action of a disturbed gunman, police sources said.

Here’s our main wrap of the news so far today: 2 killed, 7 wounded in Tel Aviv shooting attack; gunman on loose

Hamas hails Tel Aviv killings

A Hamas spokesman in Gaza hails the Tel Aviv attack as proof that the Palestinians can strike at Israelis anywhere.

Channel 2 reports that police do not consider this to be a claim of responsibility.

Even though a Koran was found in the gunman’s backpack, the police say this is not conclusive proof of the killer’s motivation.

Open questions, hours after the attack

Hours after the attack, a highly unusual number of open questions about it remain.

Extremely strangely, even though police and security forces are searching building by building in central and north Tel Aviv for the gunman, they did not issue orders to Tel Aviv residents to stay indoors.

Commentators note that Hamas and Hezbollah have both threatened attacks against Israelis in recent days. But they also highlight a handful of incidents in recent years of shooting attacks that were not Palestinian terrorism.

For more on all these questions, read, Who is the calm Tel Aviv killer, and why did he open fire?

Eyewitness describes ‘smiling gunman’

An eyewitness who was in the bar where the gunman first opened fire said he “appeared in the doorway, smiling, and opened fire.” She said she would “never forget that smile on his face.”

She described the gunman as shorter than average height, wearing black, brandishing a machine-gun, and wearing black-rimmed spectacles. She said he fired “salvoes” of gunfire, indiscriminately.

More of the initial eyewitness testimony is in this piece: ‘Gunman stood in the doorway, smiling, and opened fire’

Security camera still of the suspect in January 1, 2016 Tel Aviv shooting attack

Security camera still of the suspect in January 1, 2016 Tel Aviv shooting attack

Police about to give briefing

Police chiefs are about to give a press briefing, but word is that they won’t have a definitive take on who the gunman is, and what his motivation was.

Police and security forces are searching for the killer in Tel Aviv residential areas, going door-to-door in some areas.

There has been no formal instruction to residents to stay indoors.

Shooting victim Alon Bakal’s father mourns his ‘very special’ son

The father of one of the victims has paid tribute to his “very special” son, and warned that the ongoing violence with the Palestinians is costing the lives of the young generation of Israelis.

Alon Bakal, 26, was one of two people killed when the assailant sprayed automatic gunfire in Tel Aviv shortly before 3 p.m. Bakal was the manager of the “Simta” bar, one of the locations hit by the gunman.

“We are losing our good kids,” Bakal’s father says from Ichilov Hospital.

He “studied law and business management, he was a thriving and happy child. He lit up every place he went, he made everyone laugh,” his father says. “Have no doubt, he was a very special child. He was very special to us. Yesterday he sent me a message: ‘I am having fun, I love to live.’”

Alon Bakal, 26, was killed in a shooting attack in central Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)

Alon Bakal, 26, was killed in a shooting attack in central Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)

Police: Incident is ongoing, but Tel Aviv locals can continue normal routine

In a first press briefing, Yehuda Dahan, the local Yarkon District police chief, says this is “a grave and complex” incident.

It is still ongoing, he says.

He confirms two fatalities, and several other injured.

Police are still looking for “the unknown assailant.”

The manhunt involves the police and “all of those who can help us.”

“All directions are being explored” in terms of the motivation for the attack, Dahan says.

He urges Tel Aviv residents to be “alert” and “prepared” for any further instructions. There is no need for them to stay at home. “The public can continue with your routine,” he says, including going out to places of entertainment.

Dahan chooses not to explain why it is safe for locals to be outside when the gunman is still on the loose.

Tweet warned of today’s attack, was signed on behalf of IS

Channel 2 reports that a tweet from yesterday late morning warned of an attack on Dizengoff Street today. It says this tweet was signed on behalf of Islamic State.

A tweet warning of an attack on Dizengoff Street (Channel 2)

Detail from a tweet warning of an attack on Dizengoff Street (Channel 2)

The tweet features a photograph of a suicide-bomber belt. The TV report notes that today’s attack did not involve a suicide bomber.

It says police also received a telephoned warning, apparently from a different source.

Police took both warnings seriously, the TV report says.

The telephoned report has been dismissed as not credible, the TV report adds.

PM briefed on shooting attack, hunt for killer

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been in contact with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and the heads of the police and the Shin Bet security service. They briefed him on the attack, and the ongoing hunt for the gunman.

Threatening tweet ‘not related’ to Tel Aviv shooting

Channel 2 says police have ruled out any connection between today’s shooting attack and a threatening tweet signed on behalf of Islamic State which warned of an attack today on Dizengoff Street.

The TV report does not explain how the police have reached this definitive conclusion.

Why did gunman put plastic bag on his hand?

The video of the gunman buying dried fruit or nuts in a natural foods grocery moments before he starts his shooting spree shows him emptying a plastic bag, and putting it on his hand, a TV report notes.

Channel 2 suggests that this might be to avoid leaving fingerprints on his weapon, but adds that this is a purely speculative theory.

Security camera footage of the killer also shows him wearing some kind of protective spectacles; an eyewitness earlier described him as wearing glasses.

These elements suggest a well-organized attacker, the TV report says, while stressing again that key aspects of the incident remain baffling.

Security camera still of the suspect in January 1, 2016 Tel Aviv shooting attack

Security camera still of the suspect in January 1, 2016 Tel Aviv shooting attack

TV report: Israel knows identity of gunman, believes it was a terror attack

Israeli security forces know the identity of the gunman who killed two people and injured several others on Dizengoff Street more than four hours ago, Channel 2 reports.

It says that the assessment is now that this was a “nationalistic” terror attack, although it is not clear if this was a Hamas or other Palestinian attack, or an attack carried out by an Islamic State-affiliated gunman.

Earlier, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza had hailed the killings, and said they were proof of the Palestinians’ capacity to target Israelis anywhere.

Terrorist may not be Palestinian, TV report says

Having established the identity of the killer, and concluded that today’s shooting was an act of terrorism, Israeli authorities are now examining whether he came from abroad to carry out the attack, Channel 10 TV says.

Information is being examined to the effect that the gunman, who is still on the loose, may not be a Palestinian, the TV report says.

There is no confirmation of this report.

Tel Aviv terrorist is ‘likely an Israeli Arab’

The Tel Aviv gunman is “likely an Israeli Arab,” a police source says.

He is probably from northern Israel, the source adds.

— Avi Issacharoff

Killer is ‘from Wadi Ara’ in northern Israel; ID’d by his father

The Tel Aviv killer is from Wadi Ara in northern Israel, police sources say.

He was acting out of Islamist motives, having been “incited” to violence, the police add.

His father saw his face in security footage of the attack, and called police.

He is 29 years old, Channel 2 reported.

Security camera still of the suspect in January 1, 2016 Tel Aviv shooting attack

Security camera still of the suspect in January 1, 2016 Tel Aviv shooting attack

Tel Aviv gunman ‘had served time in Israeli prison’

Having identified today’s Tel Aviv terrorist as an Arab from Wadi Ara in northern Israel, police are examining who helped him to carry out the attack.

The alleged killer, 29, is said to have served time in jail in Israel, having been sentenced to a five-year term in 2006 for trying to grab a soldier’s gun.

Police have released a photograph of the improvised Car Gustav gun that he used.

The Carl Gustav gun used in January 1's terror attack in Tel Aviv

The Carl Gustav gun used in January 1’s terror attack in Tel Aviv

Public security minister ‘not certain’ shooting was terrorism

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says that it is still not absolutely clear what motivated the gunman.

“There is no definitive indication that this was a nationalist act,” says Erdan.

He says that “criminal” and “personal” motives are still being examined.

“I am not sure that this is part of the ongoing wave of terror,” he tells Channel 2.

Gilad Erdan of the Likud party, Tel Aviv, February 16, 2015 (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Gilad Erdan (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Second victim named: Shimon Rawimi

The second fatality in today’s attack has been named as Shimon Rawimi.

The first victim was named earlier as Alon Bakal.

Relative of killer: ‘He is not of sound mind’; father is police volunteer

Sami Milhem, a relative of the killer who has also served as his lawyer, tells Channel 2 that he is “not of sound mind.”

He says the gunman’s father — who called police after recognizing his son in security footage of the killing — is a police volunteer.

“This boy does not have anti-state tendencies,” he adds.

(A gag order prevents publication of the name of the alleged gunman.)

Sami Milhem says “I’m staggered, horrified” that his relative carried out the attack.

He says he doesn’t know if the killer had become an Islamic extremist.

He says the killer is not married.

He suggests that the killer has had treatment for a mental disorder but is not specific. Evidently, “he was not treated properly,” the relative says.

He acknowledges that the killer served time in an Israeli jail, and says it was over “a dispute” with a soldier whose weapon he tried to grab.

Gunman ‘no longer armed’

Channel 2 says police have been confidently assuring Tel Aviv locals that they can continue with their normal routine because the gunman in today’s shooting attack is no longer armed.

Earlier, police released a picture of the Carl Gustav rifle he used to kill two people and injure several others in the attack.

Apparently, he threw down the weapon at the end of his shooting spree.

Almost six hours after the attack, the killer is still on the loose.

Ex-top cop: Killer had clearly trained for attack

Mickey Levy, a former Jerusalem police chief who is now a Yesh Atid MK, says the killer “had obviously trained” for the attack.

Levy, also a former deputy police minister, notes that the gunman was calm in the moments before the shooting, and that he adopted a stable shooting position as he stepped into the street, as seen on security camera footage.

Still on the run six hours after the attack, the killer is still believed to be in the Tel Aviv area, police say.

Hamas has hailed the attack, but no terror group has taken responsibility.

Killer’s cousin said killed by police in 2006 weapons raid

Channel 2 reports on what it says is a relevant incident in the killer’s past.

It says that a decade ago, in 2006, his cousin was killed by an Israeli policeman.

The cousin had been storing weapons for an intended terror attack, police believed, and approval was given for a raid on the cousin’s home.

The cousin was indeed found to have weaponry and, in the course of the raid, brandished a gun. A policeman, believing himself to be threatened, fired on the cousin and killed him.

The police internal investigation’s department probed the killing, and brought a manslaughter case against the policeman. But the case was shoddily prepared, the TV report said, and was dismissed by Haifa District Court.

In a subsequent incident, today’s Tel Aviv killer tried to grab a gun from a soldier, in order to avenge the death of his cousin by killing Israelis. He was jailed for a five-year term, the TV report said, noting it was not clear how long he served.

The killer, who cannot be named as of this writing, was identified by his father, who saw his face on security camera footage of today’s attack. A relative and his former lawyer, Sami Milhem, claimed earlier today that the killer was “not of sound mind.”

The father is said to be a police volunteer, and a security guard.

The family condemned today’s attack, Channel 2 also said.

The killer is still on the run.

Security camera still of the suspect in January 1, 2016 Tel Aviv shooting attack

Security camera still of the suspect in January 1, 2016 Tel Aviv shooting attack

Relative urges gunman to hand himself in

Ahmed Milhem, another relative of the suspected gunman, urges him to hand himself into the authorities.

He says the killer used to work in Tel Aviv, including in a vegetable market.

“He knows Tel Aviv,” Milhem tells Channel 10.

Arab party leader condemns today’s killings

Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint (Arab) List in the Knesset, condemns the killing of innocents in the wake of today’s Tel Aviv shooting.

“Today’s pictures are heartbreaking,” Odeh says. “Although not all the details are clear, the harming of civilians must be condemned in the clearest, firmest way.”

The suspect in the killings is an Israeli Arab man from Wadi Ara in northern Israel.

Court places gag order on probe into Tel Aviv shooting

Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court slaps a gag order on the details of the shooting attack on the city’s Dizengoff Street earlier in the day, as well as on details of a separate incident on Yonitzman Street, in which an Arab Israeli man died after he was critically wounded in a shooting.

The court order reflects the suspicion that the two incidents are related, the Maariv website reports.

Five of the injured still in hospital, two in serious condition

Five of those injured in today’s shooting are still in hospitals in Tel Aviv.

Two are in intensive care, and are still in serious condition after surgery.

The other three are lightly injured.

Police bolster Tel Aviv deployment

As they continue to hunt for today’s killer, police have deployed in larger numbers in the Tel Aviv area, Army Radio reports.

It says police continue to permit cinemas, restaurants and other places of entertainment to function as usual.

Relatives of the suspect are now being questioned by police in the ongoing effort to find him.

Heart-wrenching Facebook post by Tel Aviv victim

A Facebook post from one of today’s victims, Alon Bakal, makes for heart-wrenching reading.

The Hebrew post, from three months ago, says simply: “Moved to Tel Aviv. New year, new beginning.”

Bakal’s father mourned him earlier today as “a very special child. He was very special to us. Yesterday he sent me a message: ‘I am having fun, I love to live.’”

Alon Bakal, 26, was killed in a shooting attack in central Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)

Alon Bakal, 26, was killed in a shooting attack in central Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)

Air raid sirens sound along Gaza border

Air raid sirens sound in communities along the the Gaza border, including the city of Sderot, Walla reports.

There has not yet been any report of rockets striking Israel.

5 rockets fired from Gaza

Five rockets were fired from Gaza in the past hour — two of which landed inside Israel. The other three fell inside the Strip.

There are no immediate reports of injury.

Staff, friends return to scene of shooting attack

Staff from the Simta bar, where today’s two fatalities were gunned down, have returned to the scene of the shooting, mourning together.

Dozens of memorial candles have been placed on the ground amid the smashed glass.

Alon Bakal, 26, was killed in a shooting attack in central Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)

Alon Bakal, 26, was killed in a shooting attack in central Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)

Alon Bakal, one of the dead, was the manager of the bar.

Shimon Ruimi, the second victim, was one of a group of childhood friends celebrating a birthday there when the gunman struck.

Shimon Ruimi, 30, from the southern town of Ofakim, had traveled to Tel Aviv for a friend's birthday when he was killed in a shooting attack in the city on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)

Shimon Ruimi, 30, from the southern town of Ofakim, had traveled to Tel Aviv for a friend’s birthday when he was killed in a shooting attack in the city on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)

As of midnight, Israel-time, more than nine hours after the attack, the gunman — an Israeli Arab from Arara in the northern Wadi Ara area — was still on the run.

A gun shot hole in a glass window at the scene of a shooting attack at the Simta bar in central Tel Aviv, on Friday, January 1, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A gun shot hole in a glass window at the scene of a shooting attack at the Simta bar in central Tel Aviv, on Friday, January 1, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)