The two gunmen who went on a deadly shooting spree at Tel Aviv’s Sarona shopping center on Wednesday evening first sat down at a Max Brenner restaurant and ordered some brownies, a bartender told The Times of Israel.
Yousef Jabarin of Umm al-Fahm, who works at the restaurant, said the two came in dressed in black suits, with white shirts and skinny ties.
He said that their clothes immediately told him they were from the West Bank. The terrorists were later identified by police as Palestinian cousins, both 21-years-old, from the Hebron area.
The two ordered a dessert called “milky brownies” and then, without touching their food, got up, pulled out their weapons and started shooting. Jabarin said people immediately started running. There was no one to stop the gunmen at the restaurant, as it does not employ a security guard.
The shooting lasted about a minute, he added.
Jabarin said he believed 15 minutes passed from the moment the two entered the restaurant and the time they began shooting.
Three people were killed in the shooting attack. Four others were seriously hurt, with another person said to be in critical condition. The victims were not immediately identified.
Officials said one gunman was arrested and another was shot by security forces and taken into custody.
Meital Sassi told Channel 10 TV she was out with her family celebrating her son’s birthday when she heard shots and “immediately understood it was a terror attack.”
“We ran like lighting with the baby and the stroller…. I yelled at people who didn’t understand what was happening to run.”
In April, Israeli police moved to close down Sarona outdoor complex over fears that the commercial center was not sufficiently secure, but the site’s management said it would stay open. The popular site is home to Israel’s largest indoor culinary market. Its 8,700 square meters (93,000 square feet) of market space hosts 91 shops.
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.
Warning: Graphic footage
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.
On January 1, 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.
AP contributed to this report