JERUSALEM — A gunman remained free early Friday after killing at least two people and wounding 13 others in an attack Thursday night outside a bar on a busy street in central Tel Aviv, the latest in the latest wave of terrorism. deadliest in Israel since 2016.
Doctors and police said the shooting happened around 9 p.m. on the last evening of the Israeli work week, in front of a bar full of people enjoying the start of the weekend. Nearly three hours later, police and the military still had not located the shooter(s) and police ordered residents to stay home, putting central Tel Aviv under lockdown.
The shooter’s disappearance has sparked a surreal manhunt in the heart of Israel’s most cosmopolitan city, after the army sent special forces to help with the search. Soldiers in full combat gear scoured the city center in search of the shooter, many of whom were caught on live footage by reporters running alongside them.
The shooting was the fourth fatal attack in Israel in less than three weeks, and claimed the total death toll since March 22-13. The assault heightened fears of an even more intense outbreak of violence over the next 10 days, when the rare convergence of Ramadan, Passover and Easter are expected to further heighten tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
Ten injured people were taken to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, two of whom later died and four of them were in critical condition, the hospital said. Five other injured people were treated elsewhere, police said.
An injured man said he did not initially realize he was injured. After hearing the gunshots outside the bar and seeing his window smash, the man, Mark Malfeyev, said he started running for safety. “I didn’t know I had an injury and I just started running,” Mr Malfeyev said in a video filmed from his hospital bed and broadcast by Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster. “Then I saw a lot of blood.”
Witnesses described scenes of panic in the aftermath of the shooting, as survivors ran for shelter in apartment buildings, basements of bars and nearby elevators, some of them knocking on doors. strangers to find shelter.
Broadcasters then showed video footage of soldiers going from apartment to apartment in central Tel Aviv, knocking on doors as they searched for the shooter.
Doctors at the scene said it brought back memories of past attacks in Israel, including a wave of violence between 2000 and 2005 known as the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, that killed at least 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians.
“There are a lot of people still hiding and very stressed,” said Shragi Kirschenbaum, a doctor with United Hatzalah, an emergency medical service who treated victims at the scene. “It’s been like that since I was born. I’m 37 – I don’t think I’ve gone a year without a war or terrorist attack.
Yisrael Weingarten, a paramedic with Magen David Adom, another emergency medical group, treated some of the victims and said he witnessed “a great commotion at the scene, with dozens of people running through the streets,” and seeing six people “lying on the sidewalk.”
Thursday’s attack came 10 days after a gun attack in Bnei Brak, a town just east of Tel Aviv, in which a Palestinian attacker killed three Israelis and two Ukrainians.
The episode came just two days after a gun attack in which two Arab citizens of Israel, armed with heavy automatic weapons, shot and killed two police officers in Hadera, a coastal town in northern Israel.
The recent upsurge in terrorist attacks in Israel
An outbreak of violence. The recent wave of terrorism across Israel has become one of the deadliest periods in the country for several years. A shooting on April 7 was the fourth fatal attack since March 22 and brought the total death toll in recent weeks to at least 13 people.
The series of deadly attacks began on March 22, when an assailant stabbed three people and rammed another with his car in a town in southern Israel, killing all four. Prior to the March 22 assault, there had also been two other non-lethal stabbing attacks in the space of a week in Jerusalem.
Most of the attacks in recent years have been carried out with bladed weapons, so the increase in the use of firearms is of particular concern to security officials, as it involves an unusual level of foresight and resources. .
At the time of the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was on his way to the Israeli army headquarters in a neighborhood near Tel Aviv, and was informed of the attack there.
The motivations of recent attackers have varied. Three of the attackers were Arab citizens of Israel suspected of supporting Islamic State, the extremist group that is not part of the Palestinian nationalist movement. The Bnei Brak shooter was a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank who had previously served 30 months in an Israeli prison for conspiracy to commit manslaughter and throwing objects at vehicles.
No Palestinian militant group claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, but some groups, including Hamas, the Islamist militant group based in the Gaza Strip, praised them and said they were a natural response to the Israeli occupation. Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and, together with Egypt, has maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007.
While the Palestinian Authority runs around 40% of the West Bank, the Israeli military still carries out daily raids even in areas run by the authority, and Israel operates a two-tier court system in the territory – one for settlers Israelis and one for the Palestinians.
Mr. Kirschenbaum, the doctor, said he was pleased with the presence of Arab and Jewish emergency responders at the scene. “We are all working together against terrorism, to save lives,” he said. “Jews and Arabs together,” he added.
Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting from Haifa, Israel.