Two people were killed and seven were wounded in an apparent shooting attack in a central Tel Aviv pub on Friday afternoon. A massive manhunt is underway for the assailant.
The police have identified an Israeli Arab resident of a village in the northern area of Wadi Ara as the suspect. The suspect, 29, stole the gun from his father, who works in security. The father recognized the suspect from media reports, and after learning his weapon was gone, contacted the authorities.
Two of the casualties are in serious condition, while the rest sustained light injuries.
There is a growing consensus among security officials that the shooting was a terrorist attack. After holding a situation assessment, security officials warned civilians on Friday afternoon to remain alert as police special forces and the Shin Bet security service search for the assailant.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was briefed by the police and the Shin Bet about the ongoing investigation, his office said.
The attack occurred at the Simta pub on Dizengoff 122, near the corner of Gordon St. One of people killed was identified as Alon Bakal, a manager at the pub. Bakal had moved to Tel Aviv three months ago after completing law and business studies in Netanya. The other was identified as Shimon Ruimi, 30, a resident of Ofakim.
Several of the casualties in the shooting were attending a birthday party at the pub.
Security footage from an adjacent grocery store shows the gunman taking out a gun from a backpack, exiting the store and opening fire. Another video shows bargoers ducking under tables as the gunman shoots.
A Koran was found in a bag left at the store. The police is looking into the possibility that this was part of a diversion.
Roads near the scene were closed to the public for several hours before being re-opened. Police are searching for the assailant over a wide portion of the city, from the corner of Dizengoff and Gordon to Rabin Square in the east and Ben Yehuda Street in the west. Police detained a suspect on Reines St., near the site of the shooting, after the gunman fled the scene of the attack, but are continuing a massive manhunt, going house to house in search of the gunman.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said that at this stage the municipality had "no special instructions" and asked the public to enable the security services to do their work. "We're still at the beginning of the incident and I hope those responsible get caught," he said.
Dudi Malka, one of the owners of the bar where the shooting took place, described the gunman as "fairly small, light-skinned man holding an M16." The gunman opened fire toward several businesses in the area.
"We ran into the alleys, he continued to shoot at us," he said. "Passersby had guns in the area refused to shoot him."
Gali Morag, who lives on Gordon Street opposite the scene of the shooting, says she heard shots and, looking out the window, saw a young man dressed all in black and with a woolen cap running down the street. He turned a corner and disappeared from sight. Other people were running after him.
Shani Mizrachi, a paramedic for Magen David Adom, said that "there was a huge crowd when I got to the scene. Some of the wounded were inside the pub and others lying in the street. I immediately began to assist a man of about 35 who had bullet wounds in his upper body. He was in fully conscious. I gave him first aid and he was evacuated in a serious condition to the hospital."
Israel's Channel 10 reported that about 30 shots were fired from an assault rifle during the attack.
Five of the casualties were evacuated to Ichilov Hospital Tel Aviv. Two died at the hospital and two others are in serious condition and in the operating room. One victim in light condition was brought to Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center, Petah Tikva. Another victim was also evacuated to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.
Ichilov opened an emergency hotline, which can be reached at 1255133.
About 20 minutes after the attack, a man was killed in a shooting on Yunitsman Street in northern Tel Aviv. The victim, a taxi driver, was critically wounded and died shortly thereafter. He was identified as Amin Shaban of Ramle. It is as yet unclear whether the incidents are connected.
This is the first attack in Tel Aviv since November 2, when two were killed in a stabbing attack in south Tel Aviv.