Middle East Eye / March 9, 2023
Attack on busy downtown street comes hours after soldiers killed three Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
A Palestinian man opened fire on a busy Tel Aviv street on Thursday and wounded three people, before being shot dead, according to Israeli officials.
A police spokesperson told Middle East Eye the shooter has been identified as a 23-year-old Palestinian from the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
The Palestinian movement Hamas said he was a member of the group and that the shooting was a “natural response” to recent deadly Israeli military raids in the West Bank.
A medic who was responding to the incident told MEE they treated three men in their 20s who were in critical, serious and moderate conditions. All three have been transferred to Ichilov Hospital to receive further treatment.
The shooting took place on Dizengoff Street, a popular downtown area filled with restaurants and bars, and came hours after Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in what appeared to be a targeted killing near the West Bank city of Jenin earlier in the day.
Tensions have been high in Israel and Palestine in recent months as Israeli attacks in the West Bank intensify and Palestinian resistance grows.
Israeli forces have killed at least 74 Palestinians this year – which corresponds to a rate of nearly one killing every day.
It’s the bloodiest start of a year since 2000, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
At least 13 Israelis were killed by Palestinians in the same period.
Eyewitnesses told MEE the shooter on Thursday first opened fire at people near a restaurant around 9 pm local time and then fled the scene. He was pursued by two armed civilians and two police officers who killed him in a shootout minutes later, according to Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.
The quick reaction by the four men helped prevent a much worse situation, Shabtai told reports at the scene.
One of the civilians, a police volunteer, who were part of the shootout told MEE he was in the area to pick up his daughter from a party.
“I saw people running around and then took out my gun. I asked the two men injured where the terrorist ran and they told me he fled north and hid in an alleyway. When we got to him he started shooting at us and ran towards us before we shot him and he fell,” he said.
Menachem, another eyewitness who works at a juice bar across the road from where the shooting took place, described a scene of chaos after the first few shots were heard.
“We heard the gunshots and everyone was running around. I saw two people on the ground and everyone rushing away,” Menachem told MEE.
Dizengoff Street is often the target of deadly attacks when Israeli and Palestinian tensions are high. It was the scene of a suicide bombing in the 1990s, and deadly shootings in 2016 and 2022.
Oren Ziv is a co-founder of the Active Stills collective
Three wounded in Tel Aviv shooting, hours after West Bank raid
AP / March 9, 2023
TEL AVIV, Israel – A Palestinian gunman opened fire on a crowded street in central Tel Aviv late Thursday, wounding three people before he was shot and killed, Israeli officials said. The shooting came hours after an Israeli military raid killed three Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank.
The incidents were the latest violence in a year-long wave of Israel-Palestinian fighting that shows no signs of slowing.
The Tel Aviv shooting occurred on Dizengoff Street, a popular thoroughfare filled with shops and restaurants. The city was filled with people on Thursday night, the start of the Israeli weekend, and as anti-government protests were taking place in the Mediterranean city.
An image on social media showed what was believed to be the attacker standing in the middle of the road as he pointed a pistol. The MADA rescue service said one of the wounded was in critical condition, while authorities said security forces in the area quickly killed the shooter.
Footage from a security camera inside a restaurant showed the gunman approaching three pedestrians from behind on a sidewalk across the street. He shoots one man in the head, leaving him motionless on the ground, as the other two pedestrians flee.
Also, amateur video apparently taken a short while later shows the attacker trapped in an alley as several armed Israelis stand around the corner. A man could be heard shouting “close the window” to a resident. As the suspect ran out of the alley, he was shot multiple times.
Dozens of police and rescuers rushed to the scene, which was quickly cordoned off.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Rome, said the government was working to “strengthen the security forces and the police who are fighting terrorists this night and every night.”
Earlier Thursday, three Palestinian militants were killed in a shootout with Israeli troops in the northern West Bank.
Israeli security forces said they raided the village of Jaba to arrest suspects wanted for attacks on Israeli soldiers in the area. The suspects opened fire on Israeli troops, who shot back and killed three people, all affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, police said.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the men as Sufyan Fakhoury, 26, Nayef Malaisha, 25 and Ahmed Fashafsha, 22, and said they were shot by Israeli fire during the military operation. A fourth man was hospitalized with a bullet wound to the head, authorities added.
Israeli police released a photo of assault rifles, pistols, ammunition and explosive devices they said troops confiscated in Jaba, just south of the flashpoint city of Jenin. Gunmen shot down an Israeli drone during the clashes, the military said.
The Jaba militant group, a fledgling militia of disillusioned young Palestinians who have taken up guns against Israel’s occupation, said members opened fire and hurled explosive devices at Israeli forces from a sedan — that now sits, smashed and bloodied, in the center of town. Residents said Israeli troops killed members of the group who had been recently incarcerated by Israel and had carried out a recent shooting attack at a nearby checkpoint.
This year has been marked by escalating unrest across the West Bank, as Israeli arrest raids spiral into protracted firefights with armed Palestinians.
On a visit to Israel, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters on Thursday that he discussed concerns over the upsurge in violence in the occupied West Bank with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
The United States was “urging everyone to de-escalate,” the Defense Secretary said, particularly in the run-up to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which coincides this year with the Jewish holiday of Passover.
“The U.S. remains firmly opposed to acts that could trigger further instability, including Jewish settlement expansion and inflammatory rhetoric,” Austin said, adding that he was “especially disturbed” by Jewish settler violence against Palestinians. “We will continue to oppose actions that put a two-state solution out of reach.”
Netanyahu’s far-right government, which took office late last year, has already approved thousands of new settlement homes, legalized unauthorized outposts built partially on private Palestinian land and pledged to further entrench Israeli rule over the occupied territory. Last month, in response to a Palestinian attack that killed two Israelis, a mob of settlers rampaged through the Palestinian town of Hawara and torched dozens of homes and businesses, leaving one man dead.
The Israeli military on Thursday issued a report into the rampage that identified a series of failures, including an insufficient number of soldiers in the area and the need to send reinforcements faster. It said “lessons were drawn” about coordination between the army, police and internal security agents.
“This is a severe incident that took place under our responsibility and should not have happened,” said Israel’s military chief, Lt. Col. Herzi Halevi.
Austin urged for calm even as the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad issued a veiled threat, saying its fighters would respond to the morning raid “to deter the enemy and avenge the blood of the martyrs.” Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip has previously followed violence in the West Bank.
The Jaba armed group includes gunmen from various factions, including Islamic Jihad and the armed offshoot of the nationalist Fatah party. Militants in the village say that Islamic Jihad supports the group and provides members with weapons.
The group is part of a larger trend of emerging armed groups across the West Bank that have been mounting shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians and opening fire during Israeli raids on their towns, defying the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority. In areas of the northern West Bank where much of the fighting has been focused, the PA’s control is receding as young Palestinians’ hopes dim for statehood.
The hardscrabble streets of Jaba teemed with young Palestinians in black chanting against the Israeli occupation and firing into the air as they held the bodies of militants aloft.
Yousef Hammour, a 28-year-old in the funeral procession, said Palestinian rage at Israel is only intensifying with the stepped-up arrest raids.
“Everyone’s in shock, everyone’s angry,” said Hammour. “Every single day they’re killing more and more of us. If they attack us, we’ll attack them.”
Earlier in the week, at least six Palestinians were killed in an Israeli raid in the Jenin refugee camp. The Palestinian Health Ministry said that 14-year-old Walid Nasser died Thursday from wounds suffered in Tuesday’s raid.
At least 74 Palestinians, around half of them affiliated with militant groups, have died in Israel’s raids in the West Bank since the beginning of the year. During the same time 14 people, all but one of them civilians, were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians seek for their future state. In the decades since, more than 700,000 Jewish settlers have moved into dozens of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, which the international community considers illegal and an obstacle to peace.
Associated Press writers Isabel DeBre and Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report