Israeli forces kill Palestinian attacker after manhunt

Israeli forces kill Palestinian attacker after manhunt

April 8, 2022

Tel Aviv: Israeli security forces hunted down and killed a Palestinian man on Friday who had opened fire into a crowded bar in central Tel Aviv, killing two and wounding over 10 in an attack that caused scenes of mass panic in the heart of the bustling city.

It was the fourth deadly attack in Israel by Palestinians in three weeks. Later in the day, thousands of Palestinian women, children and men aged over 40 from the occupied West Bank were set to enter Jerusalem for the first Friday prayers of the holly month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Members of Israeli Zaka Rescue and Recovery team cleans blood from the site of Thursday’s shooting in Tel Aviv, Israel.Credit:AP

Tens of thousands were expected to attend, and thousands of police were to be mobilised for the gatherings. It was not clear how the shooting would affect those plans. During Ramadan last year, protests and clashes eventually ignited a war that lasted 11 days, after Israeli police entered the mosque and loudspeaker cables to prevent calls to prayer drowning out a speech by the president nearby.

The mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam and sits on a hilltop that is the most sacred site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. The holy site has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was set to convene with top security officials. Last week he urged citizens who were licensed to carry their guns.

“We will widen our actions against the wave of terror through offence, defence and intelligence,” Defence Minister Benny Gantz said ahead of the meeting. “The price that we will extract from the attackers and those who send them will be heavy.”

Palestinian volunteers clean the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in front of the Dome of Rock Mosque, ahead of the Muslims holy month of Ramadan, in Jerusalem’s Old City.Credit:AP

Thursday’s shooting took place in a crowded bar on Dizengoff Street, a central thoroughfare that has seen other attacks over the years. Thursday night is the beginning of the Israeli weekend, and the area was packed with people in bars and restaurants.

In videos spread on social media, dozens of terrified people were seen running through the streets as police searched for the attacker and ordered people to stay indoors.

Hundreds of police officers, canine units, and army special forces, had conducted a massive manhunt throughout the night across Tel Aviv, searching building by building through densely populated residential neighbourhoods.

Early on Friday, authorities said they had found the attacker they called a terrorist hiding near a mosque in Jaffa, an Arab neighbourhood in southern Tel Aviv, and killed him in a shootout.

The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, identified the attacker as Raad Hazem, a 28-year-old Palestinian man from Jenin, West Bank.

It indicated he had acted alone, saying he did not belong to an organised militant group and had no prior record. It said he had entered Israel illegally without a permit.

The Jenin refugee camp was the scene of one of the deadliest battles of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. In April 2002, Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the camp for nearly three weeks. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers and at least 52 Palestinians, including civilians, were killed, according to the United Nations.

The Israeli military frequently conducts arrest raids in Jenin, often coming under fire. The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and coordinates with Israel on security matters, appears to have little control over the area.

Thirteen Israelis have been killed in the attacks in recent weeks, making this one of the worst waves of violence in years.

The militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip praised the attack but did not claim responsibility.

The attacks have created a challenge for Israeli authorities. All of the attackers appear to have acted individually or with minimal support from a small cell. Three of them are believed to have identified with the extremist group Islamic State. But militant groups do not appear to have trained them or organised the attacks.

Seeking to avoid a repeat of last year’s war, Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a flurry of meetings in recent weeks to maintain calm.

Israel has taken a number of steps aimed at calming tensions, including issuing thousands of additional work permits for Palestinians from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. But the attacks have set off growing calls in Israel for a tougher crackdown.

Israel has worked to sideline the Palestinian issue in recent years, instead focusing on forging alliances with Arab states against Iran. But the century-old conflict remains as intractable as ever.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future state. The last substantive peace talks broke down more than a decade ago, and Bennett is opposed to Palestinian statehood, though he supports steps to improve their economy and daily quality of life.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally and considers the entire city to be its capital. It is building and expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which most of the international community considers illegal.

It withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005. But along with neighbouring Egypt, it imposed a crippling blockade on the territory after the militant Hamas group seized power from rival Palestinian forces two years later. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since then.

Israel says the conflict stems from the Palestinians’ refusal to accept its right to exist as a Jewish state and blames attacks in part on incitement on social media. Palestinians say such attacks are the inevitable result of a nearly 55-year military occupation that shows no sign of ending.


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