Five people were killed by a Palestinian terrorist who opened fire on passersby in Bnei Brak on Tuesday night, marking the third deadly terror attack in Israel in eight days.
The gunman was killed by two police officers following a rampage just before 8 p.m. that saw him open fire on people out walking, riding bikes, or driving in their cars in the city east of Tel Aviv. One of the two officers sustained injuries in the incident and later died of his wounds in the hospital.
The attack, the third deadly terror incident in a week, underlined concerns about an escalating wave of violence ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “Israel is facing a wave of murderous Arab terrorism,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said late Tuesday. “The security forces are at work. We will fight terrorism with persistence, diligence and an iron fist.”
Four of the victims were declared dead at the scene, with the fifth — police officer Amir Khoury, 32, a Christian Arab — added to the fatalities after being rushed to the Beilinson Medical Center, officials said.
Bnei Brak resident Yaakov Shalem, a father of five according to reports, was also named as a victim, as was fellow Bnei Brak resident Rabbi Avishai Yehezkel, 29.
Yehezkel is survived by his wife and a two-year-old son.
Reports said the two other victims were foreign workers who were not immediately named.
Security officials identified the terrorist as Diaa Hamarsheh, 26, a Palestinian from the town of Ya’bad near Jenin in the West Bank who was in Israel illegally. TV reports said there were celebrations outside his family home later Tuesday.
According to police, Hamarsheh arrived in the city in a vehicle, got out, and began opening fire with a large rifle. He killed three people at the first location, before running several hundred meters and killing two more, including the police officer.
A video from the first scene showed a man with a rifle standing in a parking area of a residential building shooting into the street as a young man in ultra-Orthodox garb runs away.
Moments later, the shooter aims at a person riding past the area on a bicycle, but does not shoot him. He then calmly walks into the street, yells in Hebrew for an approaching car to “stay still” before shooting the driver, apparently Shalem, who crashes his vehicle into the building.
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The gunman is then seen running away.
Video from there showed him chasing a person on a bicycle near a busy street and trying unsuccessfully to shoot them before running toward a store. He then moved on to the second location.
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It was not immediately clear how Hamarsheh entered Israel.
He previously served time in Israeli prison for membership in a terror group and weapons trading.
Bennett was holding a security consultation with senior defense officials following the attack.
The attack came at a time when security forces were already on heightened alert, after two attacks committed by terrorists inspired by Islamic State left six people dead in the past week.
On Sunday, two police officers were killed in a shooting attack in Hadera. The Arab Israeli gunmen were affiliated with the jihadist group.
Five days before then, four people were killed in a terror attack in the southern city of Beersheba. The terrorist — previously convicted of attempting to join the Islamic State — was shot dead by passersby. He was also an Israeli citizen.
Police had bolstered forces in areas where there was a perceived threat of violence, following the attack in Hadera. The Israel Defense Forces has also bolstered troops in the West Bank.
Israeli forces arrested 12 people with suspected Islamic State ties overnight between Monday and Tuesday. More arrests were expected following Tuesday’s attack.
Tensions have risen between Israel and the Palestinians in recent weeks across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Ten Palestinians were killed in violent confrontations with Israeli troops: some died in gun battles with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, while others during attempted attacks.
Last weekend, two officers were hurt in a suspected stabbing attack in East Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amud neighborhood, and an Israeli man was stabbed and lightly hurt when he was out jogging on Jerusalem’s Hebron Road.
Earlier this month, there were several attacks in Jerusalem’s Old City, and in a nearby West Bank town.
Israeli officials had expressed fears that violence could ratchet up alongside Ramadan, which begins in early April.