Two people were killed and 12 more were wounded in a terrorist shooting attack in the center of Tel Aviv on Thursday night. The attack took place in multiple locations on Dizengoff Street, a popular scene filled with restaurants and bars in the main Israeli city.
Two hours after the attack, the gunman was still on the loose and large security forces – including at least 1,000 police officers and additional IDF soldiers – were searching the area.
Special forces – including units from the IDF’s Sayeret Matkal and Shaldag Units as well as the police’s Yamam elite counter-terror unit – were scouring the area together with senior agents from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Police urged the public to stay at home and get off the streets until the gunman is caught.
The suspect was said to be dressed in black clothing and was carrying a handgun, according to police. Police shared a photo showing a man who is suspected of being the terrorist, asking the public to help police locate him. Anyone who sees him should contact police by calling the 100 hotline.
At least four of the wounded were said to be in critical or serious condition, according to Sourasky Medical Center. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and Operations Directorate OC Maj.-Gen. Oded Basyuk were at the Kirya Military headquarters in Tel Aviv and receiving regular updates about the attack.
The Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center said that surgeries on four of the twelve total wounded Israelis were a success and that their condition has stabilized, Maariv reports.
Bennett was presented with an evaluation of the situation and discussed the continuation of police and Shin Bet operations for the coming hours.
The prime minister and members of the defense establishment who were present at the situation evaluation agreed to continue providing reinforcements and to increase the amount of forces in Tel Aviv.
Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev, Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai and IDF deputy Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi arrived at the scene as the search for the terrorist continued.
Koby Brinn, a bartender at the Spicehaus bar, said he saw the chaos unfold outside the bar. “It was nuts. I was at the bar that faced outside, and suddenly there was this massive wave of people running in the street.”
Bennett expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and wished the wounded a speedy recovery on Thursday night.
“Security forces are in pursuit of the terrorist who carried out the murderous rampage tonight in Tel Aviv. Wherever the terrorist is – we’ll get to him. And anyone who helped him indirectly or directly – will pay a price,” said Bennett.
Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev added that “Israeli police officers, with the assistance of IDF soldiers and security forces, are now in pursuit of the terrorist. We will bring him and all those who helped him to justice, wherever they hide.
Dimiter Tzantchev, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, tweeted that he was “deeply worried” by the reports of the terror attack in Tel Aviv. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. The EU stands with Israel.”
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted: “Horiffied to see anoher 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!”
Palestinian factions welcomed the terrorist attack on Thursday, with videos of celebrations in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon shared by Palestinian media. Hamas called the attack a “natural and legitimate response to the escalation of the occupation’s crimes against our people, our land, Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The terrorist movement added that it would “not allow” the “continuation of the occupation’s terrorism and crimes, and its attempts to Judaize Jerusalem, and to make sacrifices in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque to build their alleged temple, on the so-called Passover holiday.”
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement responded to the attack as well on Thursday saying, “the Tel Aviv operation is a clear message to the occupation that it must stop its incursions into al-Aqsa Mosque.” The movement warned that further “incursions” into al-Aqsa would lead to “more resistance and ransom operations.”
The attack was the latest in a series of deadly attacks that began last month in Beersheba, Hadera and Bnei Brak. So far, 13 people have been killed in the attacks.
Security forces were placed on high alert in response to the rise in terrorist attacks in Israel and gunfire targeting IDF troops in the West Bank. Some 1,000 soldiers in special forces training have been sent to help the Israel Police within Israel’s borders and major cities. The IDF also reinforced troops with 14 combat battalions – 12 to the West Bank and two to the Gaza Division.
Hundreds of IDF troops were deployed along the Seam Line in an effort to stop tens of thousands of Palestinians who enter the country on a daily basis through breaches in the security fence.
The last shooting attack on Dizengoff Street was in 2016, when two people were killed and several others were wounded in a bar in the area.