Four people were killed in a shooting terror attack in Tel Aviv’s popular Sarona Market Wednesday evening.
Three others were seriously hurt.
Police said two Palestinian gunmen were involved in the terror attack. They sat in the Max Brenner inside the Sarona complex and then began a shooting spree. They were seen using Carl Gustav-style guns, and according to Israel Radio they also had knives.
Officials said one gunman was arrested in the Sarona complex, but the other fled the scene, and carried on shooting before he too was stopped. Both were in custody Wednesday night. One of them, who was shot by security forces, was taken to Ichilov hospital in police custody. Police later confirmed they are Palestinian relatives, 21-year-old cousins, from the Hebron area in the West Bank.
Some unconfirmed reports spoke of a third gunman who escaped, but police and soldiers deployed in the surrounding streets called off the search after an hour.
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Chico Edri, head of Israel Police’s Tel Aviv district, told reporters the incident was over and no other suspects were thought to be at large. He said one gunman had been arrested, the other shot and then taken into custody. Edri said the police had seized the weapons used in the attack.
Police said there had been no warning of an imminent attack.
Less than an hour after the gunfire was first reported, Ichilov Hospital confirmed that three victims had succumbed to their injuries. They were not immediately identified. A fourth victim, a woman, died soon after midnight.
Three others were in serious condition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who landed in Tel Aviv around 10 p.m. following a two-day trip to Moscow, was briefed on the attack and went directly to the Tel Aviv army headquarters, which is across from the Sarona Market, for an emergency security meeting. The head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevy, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan were at the scene.
An eyewitness told Israel Radio that the gunmen were dressed up as ultra-Orthodox men. But other reports said they were dressed in semi-formal attire: black pants, white shirts and ties. Israel Radio said one or both were wearing kippot (Jewish skullcaps). Police wouldn’t address the claims.
A bartender confirmed to The Times of Israel that the two gunmen were sitting at Sarona’s Max Brenner restaurant before beginning their shooting spree. Yousef Jabarin, a resident of Umm al-Fahm, said the pair were dressed as “lawyers” — wearing black suits, white shirts, skinny ties. He said he knew they were from the West Bank by the way they were dressed and “how they looked.” The terrorists sat down and ordered a dessert, he said, and after 15 minutes, they stood up and started shooting.
The gunfire lasted about a minute, he said. Jabarin said the Max Brenner restaurant does not have its own security guard.
The Hamas terror group hailed the attack, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
Yechiel Miller, a volunteer medic with United Hatzalah, related from the scene of the attack: “When I arrived at the scene I saw a woman who was unconscious and not breathing and in critical condition. We began resuscitation efforts. We also treated numerous other individuals who suffered gun shot wounds and wounds from shrapnel.”
Davidi Dahan, another medic with United Hatzalah, said: “When I arrived at the scene I saw two young people who were suffering from gunshot wounds outside of a restaurant at the Sarona center. We treated them as well as numerous other individuals who were suffering from shock.
“While we were treating them other volunteers from the ambucycle unit of United Hatzalah reported that they were treating an unconscious woman behind the Sarona center and that she was in critical condition. We are currently searching for and treating other people who are suffering from shock and who have fed to nearby streets due to the incident.”
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai arrived at Ichilov Hospital, and sent condolences to the families of the victims.
“We in Tel Aviv have for years been a target of terrorism,” he said. “No terrorism will defeat us.”
Police were warning civilians to stay away from the scene of the attack.
In April, Israeli police moved to close down Sarona Market over fears that the commercial center was not sufficiently secure, but the site’s management said it would stay open. The popular compound is home to Israel’s largest indoor culinary market. Its 8,700 square meters (93,000 square feet) of market space hosts 91 shops of all varieties.
At the time, police asked the Tel Aviv Municipality to revoke Sarona’s business license, arguing that lax security put the visiting public at risk.
Since October, 29 Israelis and four others have been killed and hundreds more injured in the spate of attacks, though the violence had dramatically waned of late. Some 200 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while carrying out attacks and the rest in clashes with troops, Israeli officials say.
Wednesday’s attack was the second deadly shooting in Tel Aviv in six months.
In January, 29-year-old Nashat Milhem of the northern Israeli Arab town of Arara opened fire outside a bar on Tel Aviv’s busy Dizengoff Street, killing two Israelis. After fleeing, Milhem killed Bedouin taxi driver Ayman Shaaban some 60 minutes later. Milhem was killed in a shootout with police days later while hiding out in a building in his hometown.
In a stabbing spree in the city’s Jaffa neighborhood in March, 22-year-old Palestinian Bashar Massalha killed US citizen Taylor Force and injured 10 others in a rampage along the Jaffa boardwalk. He was killed by security forces during the attack.