Two people were killed and ten were wounded Thursday evening after a gunman opened fire in central Tel Aviv, the latest in a string of deadly terror attacks across Israel. The assailant was shot dead in Jaffa early on Friday morning.
The two men killed were aged 27 and 28 years old.
The assailant, 28-year-old Raad Hazem from the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, was located hiding near a mosque in Jaffa and killed in a fire exchange with security forces early on Friday morning, around nine hours after he carried out the attack. During this period of time, police ordered residents to stay in their homes.
According to a security source, a Shin Bet security service force arrived in the area of the Jaffa Clock Tower to gather footage from security cameras and encountered him hiding behind a car.
A Jaffa resident reported hearing several gunshots shortly after a large force surrounded the mosque in the early hours of Friday.
As of now, eight victims are hospitalized at Ichilov Medical Center; one is still in critical condition, three in serious condition and four in light-to-moderate condition.
The shooting Thursday night took place at two locations along Dizengoff Street, one of Tel Aviv's busiest streets for nightlife and entertainment. After shooting toward a bar, the assailant took off down a side street, and unsuccessfully attempted to shoot another man. According to police, the assailant shot approximately 10 bullets.
A preliminary investigation suggests that shortly before the shooting, the assailant was walking around Dizengoff Street, apparently looking for a crowded area.
A security source said that he was documented sitting on a bench near the Ilka bar for 15 minutes before he launched the attack. After escaping the scene, he hopped over a fence, and dropped a pack of bullets.
Several sources told Haaretz that the assailant does not have a prior criminal record. It was also reported that Hazem did not have a permit to enter Israel. The investigation into the attack is ongoing.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a situation assessment Friday morning that he had ordered an investigation into individuals associated with the attacker, and to block traffic flowing in and out of Jenin. The meeting was attended by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other defense officials.
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said in a statement on Friday that after a long night of activity by the Shin Bet, the IDF and Israel Police, “We succeeded this morning, through intelligence and operational cooperation, to close the circle and to kill the terrorist in a shootout.”
Bennett welcomed the killing of the assailant and said "We are maintaining maximum vigilance, within Tel Aviv and throughout the country, for fear of further incidents or imitation attacks."
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said "Young Israelis who did no harm to anyone were murdered tonight just because they were Israelis…We will fight terrorism without compromise."
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel would broaden its operations against the "wave of terror" and that the attackers and those who send them would pay a "heavy price."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack and stressed the dangers of "continuing the repeated incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque and the provocative actions of extremist settler groups", the Palestinian WAFA news agency reported, a reference to the third-holiest site in Islam.
Earlier on Thursday, Shabtai and Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev visited the scene of the shooting before attending a situation assessment at army headquarters with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. The meeting was attended by the defense minister, the chief-of-staff, the head of the Shin Bet, the head of the National Security Council and other senior defense officials.
"I was sitting at the Tzina Bar," a man injured in the attack said. "Outside the bar the shooting started. I saw the window shatter and started running. Suddenly everyone started to run, and I felt that I was hit in my back. I didn't know what was going on, I simply ran and then saw a lot of blood.
"I ran to a smaller side street and my friend saw I was bleeding and laid me down, ordered an ambulance. The neighbors helped me stop the bleeding until the ambulance arrived."
A witness who was present at two of the shooting sites told Haaretz: "I was sitting at Ilka bar with another friend when we suddenly heard shots and glass shatter. There was a mess, I started running and a lot of people came after me. We went into the side streets and I told everyone to go there.
"I called my friend who I thought was running after me, but he didn't pick up. I raised my head and saw someone standing in front of me, cocking a gun. I immediately ran away and heard five shots. I didn’t look back, and he didn't say anything."
'I pray for the full recovery of the injured'
Speaking shortly after the attack, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said, "This was a very difficult night. My condolences are with the families of the murdered, and I pray for the full recovery of the injured."
In statements, the Islamic Jihad and Hamas commended the attack and said the attack was a natural response to Israeli escalation against the Palestinian people and the damage being inflicted on holy sites, particularly Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said Hazem was affiliated with the organization, and said "The operation in Dizengoff is a natural response to the crimes of the occupation against the Palestinian people."
The assailant's father, Fathi Hazem, a former security prisoner in Israel, welcomed the attack.
In the West Bank and Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, residents waved flags and celebrated the attack.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted that he is "horrified to see another cowardly terror attack on innocent civilians, this time in Tel Aviv."
EU Ambassador to Israel Dimiter Tzantchev tweeted that he is "deeply worried about reports about another terror attack against Israeli civilians, this time in the heart of Tel Aviv."
Israel has faced a wave of terror attacks over the past month. On March 22, four Israelis were killed in a stabbing attack in Be'er Sheva. On March 27, two border police officers were killed in a shooting attack in Hadera. On March 30, two Israeli civilians, two Ukrainian nationals and a police officer were killed in a shooting attack in Bnei Brak.
On Tuesday, Bennett said that Israel has thwarted over 15 terror attacks over the past two weeks, calling the wave of attacks that have killed 11 people "a wake-up call." Tensions have been high since the start of the holiday of Ramadan earlier this month.
In 2016, a shooting attack took place at a pub on Dizengoff Street, killing two and wounding several. The Israeli Arab suspected assailant was killed by police a few days later.