As on most Thursday nights, the bars, restaurants and cafes in central Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street were packed with young people getting an early start to the weekend. The revelry suddenly turned into tragedy and horror when a terrorist opened fire, killing two people and wounding at least 10 others.
Witnesses spoke of a gunman who suddenly appeared, their first inkling of the attack when they heard the loud shots fired and shattered glass crashing down on them.
Some hid under tables and behind beer barrels, others ran, including one man who would encounter the shooter again in a nearby alley.
“The terrorist just began shooting. As far as I know, no one even saw him or knew where he was,” the owner of the popular Ilka bar, where the shooting spree began just after 9 p.m. Thursday, told Channel 12 news. “In my bar, we had a number of people hit, all young people under 30.”
Hadar, a waitress at Ilka who was about to begin her shift, said she was sitting by the bar when the gunfire began.
“Suddenly we heard loud bangs and all the glass shattered. I was sitting next to the door. We understood it was an attack and I pulled people out; we hid under tables not really knowing what was going on, and waited.”
One of the patrons, Ra’anan Shimon, 32, was shot in the face, with medics describing his situation as “a miracle” — with the bullet entering his right cheek and exiting the left one. He was hospitalized with his condition described as good to moderate.
“I went to drink a beer with a friend at Ilka. We were sitting outside for about 15 minutes when the terrorist appeared in front of us and began to shoot,” he said.
“I fell on the floor and looked for cover and went behind the beer barrels when suddenly I felt that I was dripping blood,” Shimon said. “There were a few shots and we waited until things quieted down.”
Another wounded person described the panic as he waited for help.
“Everything was chaotic. People pulled out guns and began to run. I was worried that people would shoot each other by mistake,” he said. “I was completely covered with blood — I have never seen such chaos. I’m so sad.”
Not everyone was as lucky.
Medics described the carnage at the scene.
“There was chaos when we arrived,” said Magen David Adom medic Tomer Gussman, one of the first to arrive at Ilka.
“Near the entrance to the bar, we saw a man, about 30, unconscious with gunshot wounds. We started resuscitation efforts and took him in a critical condition to the hospital,” he said.
“Behind one of the tables, we saw another unconscious wounded man with gunshot wounds. We put him in a mobile intensive care unit and took him to the hospital too,” he said.
Ten people were rushed to the nearby Ichilov Hospital with gunshot wounds, two of whom were later declared dead, the hospital said. Four others were listed as critical and were undergoing surgery, according to the hospital. Two more were seriously injured, and two were mildly hurt.
Another four people with mild injuries were taken to Wolfson Hospital in Holon and Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer.
People in next-door bars and restaurants also took cover.
“We dove under the tables and people started crying; it was horrible,” said Evelyn Gertz, 34, who was having dinner next door.
Others simply ran.
“We started running out the bar, I saw the window shatter,” Mark Malfeig, 27, who was injured in the back, told Channel 12.
“I was hit in the back but I did not know that I was hurt. I just went out and then felt a lot of blood.” Local residents took him into their home and helped treat him before the medics arrived, he said.
After opening fire at Ilka, the gunman apparently turned down a side street where he kept on shooting, including at one man, Idan, who had fled the bar.
“After we heard the first shots, we ran,” Idan told Ynet.
“When I lifted my head, I saw someone standing in front of me with a pistol and loading it. I just ran and I heard five shots, I did not look back and did not hear him say anything,” Idan said.
“The terrorist stood about two meters from me, he shot at me, but missed and hit a nearby car,” he said, recounting his escape.
A friend of his who ran to a higher floor after the first shots were fired witnessed the incident.
“I saw the terrorist pull out the pistol and cock it; I shouted at him and I think that scared him and he ran off,” he said.
The terrorist then apparently continued in a southerly direction firing at people, before disappearing.
Police, aided by the military, launched a massive manhunt, blocking off several blocks in Tel Aviv and calling on people to remain in their homes.
Police released a photo of the shooter showing a young man in blue jeans and a black jacket. Video on social media showed him calmly walking down the street, his hand in one pocket, passing by several crowded cafes.
Video circulating online allegedly shows the gunman passing the bar in Tel Aviv before committing a shooting attack there. pic.twitter.com/CCSPZKtgYi
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) April 7, 2022
Channel 12’s police correspondent said that the fact that he managed to hit so many people armed with just a pistol suggested he had some level of firearm training.
After initial concern there might be more than one gunman, police said they believed there was only one terrorist; reports said he was a West Bank Palestinian.
“It’s an atmosphere of war. Soldiers and police are everywhere… They searched the restaurant, and people are crying,” said Binyamin Blum, who works in a restaurant near the scene.
With hundreds of police still searching for the shooter long hours after the deadly gunfire, many people took shelter wherever they could, in restaurants, bars, and strangers’ homes.
With police telling people to stay off the street, people who ran into nearby apartments for shelter were continuing to hunker down there hours later.
Psychologist Ari Goldberger, 37, who was eating dinner nearby when the attack occurred, was hiding-out in an apartment owned by an Italian couple with some 40 others, including children and an Australian tourist.
“We are just singing Tehillim (psalms). … The hosts are bringing pasta, drinks,” Goldberger said. “The hospitality is amazing. [The owner] just invited everyone to his house, next to the restaurant.”
ToI staff and agencies contributed to this report.