Police in Jaffa said they later shot dead the assailant, who they identified as a 28-year-old Palestinian from Jenin
By Lubna Masarwa in Jerusalem
At least two people were killed and several others wounded in a shooting in downtown Tel Aviv on Thursday, in the latest in a string of attacks across Israel in recent weeks.
Ten people were wounded and are being treated in hospital, with at least four in a critical condition.
The shooting took place in more than one location in Dizengoff Street, a popular street filled with restaurants and bars.
Police officers later found the assailant hiding near a mosque in Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency said.
During an exchange of fire, the attacker was killed, the agency said.
Shin Bet identified the man as a 28-year-old Palestinian from Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, who they said was in Israel illegally.Itai Niger, who lives near the scene of the attack, told Middle East Eye that there was a heavy police presence in the city and fear was palpable.
“I’m surprised and scared. I don’t know how to comprehend it. I don’t know what my life will look like in the coming days and the future,” said Niger.
“This is terrible. Residents of Tel Aviv will wake up to a new reality after this.”
An earlier manhunt had involved hundreds of soldiers and police officers and elite army units, photojournalist and MEE contributor Oren Ziv reported from the scene.
Ziv described a tense scene in the city as residents remain on edge with the assailant still on the run.
To contain the search operation, security forces had blocked the exits of Tel Aviv after the shooting.
Earlier in Wadi Ara, a region 60km north of Tel Aviv populated mostly by Palestinian citizens of Israel, security forces had set up roadblocks and began questioning drivers, MEE correspondent Mohammed Wated reported.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was monitoring the situation from the Israeli military headquarters, which is also in central Tel Aviv, his office said.
Fears of escalation
Thursday’s attack comes just over a week after three separate attacks killed 11 Israelis, including policemen.
Three of the four assailants, all fatally shot in the aftermath, were Palestinian citizens of Israel. The fourth was a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank.
In the wake of the violence, the Israeli army and police raised alert levels to the highest since May last year, with thousands of troops and officers deployed across Israel and along the fences with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israel: Security forces prepare for potential unrest in mixed Arab-Jewish areas
Six Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since then by Israeli fire, including one who was shot by a settler.
The spike in violence coincides with warnings that tensions may escalate next week as Israeli settlers and far-right activists announced plans to storm al-Aqsa Mosque during the Jewish Passover holidays to perform religious rituals inside the site.
For six consecutive nights, Israeli forces assaulted Palestinians at Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem, a popular meeting spot for Palestinians to gather and socialise, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. More than 30 people have been arrested in the crackdown, including minors.
Despite the tensions, Israeli authorities said earlier this week they will ease restrictions on Palestinians from the West Bank visiting al-Aqsa Mosque ahead of the first Friday of Ramadan, which often draws tens of thousands of worshippers.
Violence spiked last Ramadan when Israel tried to expel Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, to make way for Israeli settlers.
This prompted widespread protests across the occupied West Bank and the Palestinian community inside Israel and led to an 11-day war between Israel and armed groups in Gaza. Israel’s large-scale military operation on the besieged Strip killed 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, according to the UN. In Israel, 13 people were killed by rockets launched from Gaza.
Middle East Eye