Tel Aviv Shooting Leaves 2 Dead and 7 Wounded
By DIAA HADIDJAN. 1, 2016
Israeli medics treating a victim after an attack by a gunman at a Tel Aviv bar on Friday. Credit Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
TEL AVIV — A gunman opened fire on a popular bar and other shops in the center of Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon, killing two people and wounding at least seven others. The assault created mayhem along a busy street and led to an intense manhunt by the authorities. The suspect was still at large late Friday.
The attacker, who in video footage appeared to be dressed in black and wearing glasses,
opened fire on a cafe, a sushi restaurant and what seemed to be his main target, the Simta pub, whose manager was killed, Israeli news media reported.
Israel has experienced a surge in Palestinian violence recently that has included stabbings, shootings and vehicular attacks, but the coastal city of Tel Aviv has been mostly untouched.
The motive for Friday’s shootings was not immediately clear.
Several hours after the attack, attention focused on a 29-year-old Arab man from Arara, a northern Arab-Israeli town. Gilad Erdan, the minister of public security, would not confirm the man’s identity, but Israeli media said the man’s father, a volunteer Israeli policeman, had identified him from security camera footage.
Sami Melhem, a relative of the suspect and a lawyer, said in an interview that the Israeli police were interrogating the man’s father. He said the rest of the family was too distraught to talk.
Mr. Melhem said the suspect had been jailed for five years in the past for trying to seize a weapon from a soldier. He said the man had psychological problems and possibly an addition to drugs or alcohol.
“He has severe depression and unusual behavior,” Mr. Melhem said.
The suspect’s time in jail, as well as reports that his cousin was killed by the police, suggests that some of the family had a history of grievances with the authorities, though the fact that the man’s father was a volunteer policeman complicates that picture.
On Friday, people near Dizengoff Street, the area that was attacked, described a chaotic scene.
“When I walked out, I saw the mess: a person lying on the road, full of blood, and the other store near the pub destroyed, with all its windows blown out,” said Haim Pinto, 40, the owner of a nearby jewelry store.
He said he had rushed to hide in the bathroom of his store after a woman ran toward him, screaming: “There’s a terrorist. Run.”
Israeli security forces rushed into nearby streets searching for the gunman. One police officer, an assault rifle hanging from her shoulder, leapt onto a man’s bicycle — shouting, “Get out of the way!”
— to navigate the crowded streets, according to Ben Hartman, a reporter for The Jerusalem Post who lives nearby.
Dozens of people gathered as plainclothes security officers, riot police officers and intelligence agents cordoned off and canvassed the area, which was strewn with shards of glass. Several of the officers presented business owners with court orders to allow them to seize security-camera footage.
The wounded were taken to hospitals in Tel Aviv, Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, said on Twitter; the Israeli news media said that at least two of the wounded were in serious condition. The police, including counterterrorism units, were concentrating their search in the center of the city and were examining video-surveillance footage, Mr. Rosenfeld said.
Security footage broadcast on Israeli media that was shared on social media appeared to show that the gunman had first stopped in a grocery store, where he picked up and examined a bag of nuts. He appeared to have placed a bag or a backpack on a shopping cart, removed his gun, loaded it, stepped outside the store and then opened fire from the sidewalk.
Mr. Nisman and other Israeli security experts said the weapon seen in the video footage appeared to resemble a Swedish-made submachine gun.
In another video, which was also circulated online, patrons at the bar fled in panic as the gunman appeared.
The attacker appears to have initially fired single rounds, before unleashing automatic fire,
Israel’s Channel 2 news station reported. He replaced the magazine of his firearm at least once during the attack.
“We realized within a second that it was a shooting,” said Assaf Ben Ezra, 40, the owner of a restaurant called the Meatpack, which is across the street from the Simta pub.
Mr. Ben Ezra opened the back door of his restaurant so that fleeing customers could move away from the street. He later emerged to see one of the victims lying on the ground, bleeding.
“I ran to help,” Mr. Ben Ezra said. “He was able to ask us, ‘Where is my dog?’ ”