Gunman kills 2 in Israeli city of Tel Aviv

TEL AVIV – A Palestinian gunman was killed by Israeli police after fatally shooting two Israelis and injuring at least 15 others at a popular pub in central Tel Aviv on Thursday night, Israeli authorities said.

The shooting comes amid a spate of terrorist attacks in recent weeks, the deadliest to hit Israel in years. Since March 22, 13 people have been killed in terrorist attacks by Palestinians from Israel and the West Bank.

Israel Police said the shooter was a man from the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, just before 9 p.m. on Thursday, the start of the weekend in Israel, shot at the Ilka pub on Dizengoff Street, one of Tel Aviv’s busiest shopping and nightlife areas. He then fled the scene of the crime.

Police ordered residents to go inside, lock their doors and stay away from their windows while hundreds of officers swept the city, searching yards and construction sites in search of the attacker. Videos posted to social media showed rescuers loading victims onto stretchers and clearing debris while helicopters lit a searchlight from above.

The gunman was found and killed around 6am Friday morning in a shootout with Israeli police near a mosque in central Jaffa, a mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood south of Tel Aviv. He was identified as Raed Hazem, 29, and was staying in Israel without permission from the Jenin refugee camp. The camp is a hotbed of political and militant activity in the northern West Bank.

The two Israelis killed by the gunman were men in their late 20s, according to Israeli emergency services. More than a dozen others, also in their 20s and 30s, suffered gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, medics said.

“It was a very difficult night. And everyone who helped [the terrorist] will pay a price, directly or indirectly,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Bennett, along with Defense Secretary Benny Gantz and Public Safety Minister Omer Bar-Lev, were monitoring the situation from military headquarters in Tel Aviv, several blocks from the scene of the attack, their offices said.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said in a tweet that he was “appalled to see another cowardly terrorist attack on innocent civilians, this time in Tel Aviv.”

“That has to stop!” he wrote.

Bennett announced late Thursday that his government would be beefing up security forces in Tel Aviv, adding to the already increased number of forces recently deployed across Israel and the West Bank. Last week, Bennett ordered licensed Israelis to carry guns after a Palestinian walked up to one shooting rampage killed five people in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Israeli security forces were on high alert ahead of Friday, the first Muslim holy month of Ramadan, to prepare for possible clashes near the Damascus Gate in east Jerusalem. Both Israeli and Palestinian authorities have warned of a sharp escalation in violence, particularly over the next few weeks, when Ramadan will on rare occasions coincide with Passover and Easter.

In May, also during Ramadan, clashes between Palestinians and Israelis near the Damascus Gate helped spark an outbreak 11 days war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza.

In a statement on its website Thursday, Hamas praised the attack in Tel Aviv, calling it a “heroic operation” that “resulted in the killing of a number of occupying soldiers and Zionist settlers.”

Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem and Hazem Balousha in Gaza City contributed to this report.

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