At least two people were killed and another eight wounded in a series of shootings in central Tel Aviv on Thursday.
Live footage from Israel’s Kan broadcaster showed police flooding the area and training their guns on the upper story of a building. It also showed an explosion of some kind.
Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service said it received reports of a shooting at “several scenes” around downtown Tel Aviv. At least one attack took place on Dizengoff Street, a central thoroughfare and popular weekend hangout.
Eli Levy, a police spokesman, told Israel’s Channel 13 several had been wounded in the shooting on Thursday and officers were at the scene. He urged people to avoid the area.
Two of the wounded later died, The Times of Israel reported, citing officials at Ichilov Medical Center. The hospital was treating eight others – four who were in “critical condition” and undergoing surgery.
Television footage showed armed officers running down Dizengoff Street and smaller side streets trying to track down the attacker or attackers. A police helicopter shined a spotlight on the streets from above.
Police update reporters on Tel Aviv shooting attack:
One gunman suspected, who fled from the scene and is still at large, with hundreds of police officers fanning the area.
They believe he remains in the area and they ask residents to stay home.
– Amy Spiro (@AmySpiro) April 7, 2022
The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear, but tensions have soared following recent attacks by Palestinians that killed 11 people in Israel.
On March 22, four Israelis were killed in a stabbing attack in Be’er Sheva.
Five days later, two border police officers were killed in a shooting attack in Hadera. On March 30, two Israelis, two Ukrainian nationals, and a police officer were killed in a shooting attack in Bnei Brak.
Outside a café where shattered glass carpeted the ground outside the entrance, a man comforted a woman sitting on a barstool.
“It’s an atmosphere of war. Soldiers and police are everywhere, ”said Binyamin Blum, who works in a restaurant near the scene of the attack.
Reporting from West Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s John Holman said the area where the shooting occurred is “full of bars and cafes”.
“There would have been quite a few people out. Local media are reporting that there were two separate gunmen. This shooting took place in various locations. It does appear to be similar to an attack, rather than a criminal shooting, ”said Holman.
“Israel has been sending more police, more security forces out onto the streets, and the prime minister said in the last week or so that anyone who has a gun license should be carrying their weapon. This is a moment they have braced for, especially since it is the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which often brings tensions in this part of the world. ”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was monitoring the situation from the Israeli military headquarters, which is also in downtown Tel Aviv, his office said.
The last time such violence happened on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street was in 2016 when two people were killed and several wounded in a shooting attack at a bar. The attacker was killed several days later after he escaped the scene.
American and European envoys to Israel were quick to condemn Thursday’s shooting.
Horrified to see another cowardly terror attack on innocent civilians, this time in Tel Aviv. Praying for peace, and sending condolences to the victims and their families. This has to stop!
– Ambassador Tom Nides (@USAmbIsrael) April 7, 2022
Last year, protests and clashes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ignited an 11-day Gaza war.
Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a flurry of meetings in recent weeks, and Israel has taken a number of steps aimed at calming tensions, including issuing thousands of additional work permits for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.
Prior to the attack, Israel had said it would allow women, children and men over 40 from the occupied West Bank to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on Friday, the first weekly prayers of Ramadan.
Tens of thousands were expected to attend.
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 serious and substantive peace talks broke down more than a decade ago, and Bennett is opposed to Palestinian statehood.
– مد دراوشة (@AhDarawsha) April 7, 2022