Wednesday, 8 June 2016
Palestinian Gunmen Open Fire in Tel Aviv, Leaving Four Dead
JERUSALEM — Two Palestinian gunmen posing as restaurant patrons opened fire on civilians in a popular Tel Aviv cafe on Wednesday night, killing four people and reigniting fears of terrorism in Israel just as a recent wave of Palestinian attacks had seemed to be waning.
Dressed in black suits, the two men sat down and ordered food, according to witnesses, before embarking on a shooting rampage. They did not seem to have aroused much suspicion at first, despite the warm spring weather: An Arab bartender at the restaurant, Yusuf Jabarin, told Israel’s Channel 2 television network that they looked “like lawyers.”
Then the men pulled assault rifles out of their bags and aimed at the patrons, causing mayhem. Video footage showed customers fleeing in panic and a security officer repeatedly firing at one of the gunmen in a nearby street.
The police identified the attackers as cousins from Yatta, a Palestinian town south of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Security officers wounded one of the gunmen and he was taken to a nearby hospital, the police said. The second gunman was arrested, but his condition was not immediately clear.
The shooting victims were not immediately identified. At least one of the dead was a woman. Several others were wounded.
Tel Aviv has suffered a number of deadly attacks since a wave of Palestinian assaults began last October in Jerusalem and the West Bank and spread to cities around Israel. More than two dozen Israelis and two American visitors have been killed in those attacks. Most were killed in stabbings, though there have also been several shootings.
About 200 Palestinians have been killed during the same period, most of them while carrying out or trying to carry out attacks, and others in clashes with Israeli security forces.
In January, two Israelis were killed in a shooting outside a bar on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. The gunman in that case was an Arab citizen of northern Israel.
In March, a Palestinian went on a stabbing rampage along a coastal promenade near Tel Aviv, killing an American combat veteran who was a graduate student at Vanderbilt University.
But Tel Aviv has not been a main focus of the violence. Some 200,000 people participated in the annual Gay Pride Parade there on Friday, lending the seaside city a carnival atmosphere.
The Wednesday shootings took place during the first days of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. The police said they would bolster their forces in Tel Aviv to increase people’s sense of security.
To carry out their attack, the gunmen picked the Max Brenner chocolate bar in the Sarona complex, an open-air entertainment and shopping district in the heart of Tel Aviv close to Israel’s military headquarters.
Ofer Newman, a witness, said that four gunshots rang out, scattering people in all directions, and that a second burst of fire quickly followed. “In between the two bursts, police and security forces started to run around in search of the source,” he told Army Radio.
Yaniv Tamuz, another witness, said the police had instructed people to lock themselves inside shops and restaurants. “I am in a pizzeria on Kaplan Street,” he said. “We heard gunfire and immediately people started running in our direction, and we locked ourselves in the shop.”
Mr. Jabarin, the bartender at Max Brenner, said he had initially fled in fear but quickly returned to the cafe to try to help the victims.
Avraham Liber, a resident of Jerusalem, said he had gone to Tel Aviv with some friends and was sitting at Max Brenner for ice cream. He heard the shots and could see one of the attackers. “He got up, he had a rifle in his hand and he was just shooting point blank at people sitting down,” Mr. Liber said. “I didn’t hear him say anything.”