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DPA/PA Images

Gun attacks kill at least five people near Tel Aviv

The attacks came after a shooting on Sunday that killed two Israeli police officers in the northern city of Hadera.

LAST UPDATE | 30 Mar 2022

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett warned of a “wave of murderous Arab terrorism” ahead of funerals today for two of five people killed in a shooting rampage in a religious Jewish town.

The shooting in Bnei Brak, a coastal town outside Tel Aviv, of four civilians and a police officer was the third fatal gun or knife attack in the Jewish state in the past week.

“An attacker armed with an assault rifle opened fire on civilians on HaShnayim Street in Bnei Brak, leaving several civilians in fatal conditions,” Israeli police said.

“From there he moved to Herzl Street, opened fire on civilians, and was neutralised by police force,” they said in a statement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

But Israeli media said the perpetrator was a Palestinian from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, who had spent four years in the Jewish state’s prisons, identifying him as Diaa Hamarshah.

Bennett, who heads an ideologically disparate coalition government ranging from Jewish nationalists to Arabs, said the country was “facing a wave of murderous Arab terrorism”.

The Israeli leader would convene an emergency meeting with top security officials today to review the situation.

Police said its forces were put on the highest level of alert, and the army said it would deploy extra units in and around the West Bank.

“We unfortunately have to note that five people have died,” said Eli Bin, head of the Magen David Adom emergency responders.

‘Condemned by all’

Those killed were identified as Yaakov Shalom (36) and Avishai Yehezkel (29) both ultra-Orthodox residents of Bnei Brak, and Amir Khoury (32) an Arab Christian policeman from Nof Hagalil who had responded to the attack.

The two other people killed were reported to be foreigners.

The funerals of Yehezkel and Shalom are to take place this morning.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank, issued a rare condemnation of the attacks.

“The killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians will only lead to further deterioration of the situation, while we are all striving for stability,” he said in a statement carried by Wafa news agency.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the “terrorist attack”, calling the recent spate of violence “unacceptable”.

UN chief Antonio Guterres’ spokesman said he “condemns the recent terrorist attacks in Israel”.

“Such acts of violence can never be justified and must be condemned by all,” the spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in a statement.

Yesterday’s shooting is the third deadly attack in Israel in a week, bringing the combined death toll to 11, excluding perpetrators.

Spate of attacks 

A shooting on Sunday killed two Israeli police officers – identified as Shirel Aboukrat, a French-Israeli citizen, and Yezen Falah – in the northern city of Hadera.

That assault was later claimed by the Islamic State group — the jihadists’ first claim of an attack on Israeli territory since 2017.

Israeli police had said the two perpetrators of the Hadera attack were killed at the scene.

Hamas, the Islamic Palestinian movement that rules the Gaza Strip, praised Sunday’s attack as a “natural and legitimate response” to Israeli “crimes against our people”.

It was also welcomed by the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad militant group and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

Sunday’s attack coincided with a landmark meeting bringing together Israel’s foreign minister with those of four Arab countries with ties to the Jewish state, as well as Blinken.

Last week, a convicted IS sympathiser killed four Israelis in a stabbing and car-ramming attack in the southern city of Beersheba.

The attacks near Tel Aviv come as Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz visits Jordan, where he met King Abdullah II in a bid to ensure calm in the Palestinian territories during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Tensions flared last year during the fasting month, which starts in April, between Israeli forces and Palestinians visiting Al-Aqsa mosque in annexed east Jerusalem, feeding into 11 days of armed conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Jordan’s king called on Gantz to “lift all obstacles that could prevent [Muslims] from performing prayers” at Al-Aqsa and “prevent any provocations that could lead to escalation”.

© AFP 2022

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