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Israel: Gunman 'kills four' in mass shooting in Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak

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By AP with Euronews
Israeli police work near the covered body of a shooting victim in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, March 29, 2022.
Israeli police work near the covered body of a shooting victim in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, March 29, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Oded Balilty

A gunman on a motorcycle opened fire in a crowded city in central Israel late Tuesday, killing at least four people in the second mass shooting rampage this week. The shooter was killed by police.

The circumstances were not immediately clear. Police said Tuesday’s shooting took place at two locations, apparently by a gunman riding a motorcycle.

Bnei Brak is an ultra-Orthodox city just east of Tel Aviv. Police said in a statement that a preliminary investigation found that the gunman was armed with an assault rifle and opened fire on passersby before he was shot by officers at the scene.

"Unfortunately, we have seen the death of five people," said Elie Bin, director of Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, confirming that the initial casualty toll had risen.

A police official speaking to reporters at the scene corrected initial reports that five people had been killed, clarifying that the gunman and four victims were pronounced dead in the incident.

The shooting took place two days after a shooting in the city of Hadera that left two police officers dead, and a week after a stabbing in the southern city of Beersheba in which four people were killed.

The militant Islamic State group claimed responsibility for both attacks in the past week, in which the assailants were killed. Those attacks raised concerns that there could be further violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called an emergency meeting of top security officials later Tuesday.

Israeli media reported that the suspected gunman was a 27-year-old Palestinian man from the northern West Bank town of Yabad. Police did not immediately provide information about the suspect.

Amateur video footage aired on Israeli television appeared to show a gunman in a black shirt armed with an assault rifle shooting into a moving vehicle.

On Sunday, a pair of gunmen killed two young police officers during a shooting spree in the central city of Hadera, and last week, a lone assailant killed four people in a car ramming and stabbing attack in the southern city of Beersheba.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli security services raided the homes of at least 12 Arab citizens and arrested two suspected of having ties to the Islamic State group in a crackdown sparked by recent deadly attacks.

Hours before the raid, Bennett said the recent assaults inside Israel marked a “new situation” that required stepped-up security measures.

Law enforcement officials said 31 homes and sites were searched overnight in northern Israel, an area that was home to the gunmen who carried out the Hadera attack.

Israeli leaders condemned the killings and pointed to the timing. Both attacks came ahead of Ramadan, which begins later this week, and as Israel hosted a high-profile meeting this week between the foreign ministers of four Arab nations and the United States. All four Arab nations — Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — along with the United States, condemned the killings.

Ramadan is expected to begin Saturday. Last year, clashes between Israeli police and Muslim protesters during the holy month boiled over into an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. Hamas praised the shooting as a “heroic operation.”

Israel has been taking steps to calm tensions with the Palestinians this year to avoid a repeat of violence. Deadly attacks by IS inside Israel, and attacks by Arab citizens of Israel, are rare.

The group operates mainly in Iraq and Syria, where it has recently stepped up attacks against security forces. It no longer controls any territory but operates through sleeper cells. IS has claimed attacks against Israeli troops in the past and has branches in Afghanistan and other countries.

Additional sources • AFP