This is the fourth deadly attack on Israel by the Palestinians in three weeks, and comes at a time of heightened tensions around the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank were ready to enter Jerusalem for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with top security officials and announced that a major crossing on the northwest coast near the attacker’s hometown would be closed indefinitely.
“Every killer will know that we will go to him, and anyone who helps terrorists should know that the price he has to pay will be unbearable,” Bennett said in a statement.
Israel went ahead with plans to allow Palestinian women, children and elderly men to enter Jerusalem for prayer. Protests and clashes in the holy city during Ramadan last year finally began the 11-day Gaza war.
Thursday’s shooting took place at a crowded bar on Diesengof Street, a central street that has seen other attacks over the years. Thursday night marks the start of the Israeli weekend, and the area is packed with people at bars and restaurants.
In videos spread on social media, dozens of panicked people were seen running down the street as police searched for the attacker and instructed people to stay indoors.
Hundreds of Israeli police officers, canine units and army special forces conducted extensive searches throughout Tel Aviv throughout the night, searching the building through densely populated residential areas.
Earlier on Friday, authorities said they saw the attacker hiding near a mosque in Jafar, an Arab area of southern Tel Aviv, and killed him in a gunfight.
Shin Bet identified the attacker as Rad Hazem, a 28-year-old Palestinian man from the occupied West Bank. It said he was not a member of any organized militant group and had no previous record. It said he had entered Israel illegally without permission.
The Jenin refugee camp was one of the deadliest battles of the second Palestinian intifada or uprising 20 years ago. In April 2002, Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the camp for about three weeks. At least 52 Palestinians have been killed, including 23 Israeli soldiers and civilians, according to the United Nations.
The Israeli military often conducts arrests in Jenin, often on fire. The Palestinian Authority, which manages parts of the occupied West Bank and coordinates with Israel on security issues, appears to have little control over the area.
Since Thursday’s attack, 13 Israelis have been killed in recent weeks, making it one of the worst waves of violence in years.
The militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has praised the attack but has not claimed responsibility. President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the PA, has condemned the attack, saying the killing of civilians on both sides “could only lead to further deterioration of the situation.”
The attackers all seem to have worked individually or with minimal support from a small cell. Three of them are thought to be affiliated with the extremist group Islamic State. However, militant groups do not appear to have trained them or organized attacks.
Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a shaking meeting in recent weeks to discuss ways to stay calm to avoid a repeat of last year’s war.
Israel has taken a number of steps to calm tensions, including allowing thousands of additional jobs for Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. But the attack has prompted calls for tougher repression in Israel.
Prior to the attack, Israel said it would allow women, children and men over the age of 40 in the occupied West Bank to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on Friday. Thousands were expected to attend, and thousands of police were deployed.
The mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam and is located on top of a hill which is the holiest place for Jews who refer to it as the Temple Mount. The holy site has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Israel has sidelined the Palestinian issue in recent years, instead focusing on forming alliances with Arab states against Iran. But the century-old conflict remains unresolved.
In the 1967 Middle East War, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future states. The last real peace talks broke down more than a decade ago, and Bennett is opposed to a Palestinian state, although he supports measures to improve their economy and living standards.
In a move that is not internationally recognized, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and considered the entire city as its capital. It is building and expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which most of the international community considers illegal.
In 2005, Israel withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza. But with neighboring Egypt, the militant group Hamas imposed a crippled blockade on the region two years after it seized power from rival Palestinian forces. Since then, there have been four wars between Israel and Hamas.
Israel says the conflict stems from the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize its right to exist as a Jewish state and has been blamed for partial attacks for inciting social media. Palestinians say such attacks are the inevitable result of nearly 55 years of military occupation that show no signs of ending.
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