Palestinian attacker killed by Israeli forces after search operation

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli security forces hunted down and killed a Palestinian man early Friday who opened fire at a crowded bar in central Tel Aviv, killing two and wounding more than 10, causing There was widespread panic in the heart. bustling city.

It was the fourth deadly attack in Israel by Palestinians in three weeks, and came at a time of rising tensions around the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Later in the day, thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank were scheduled to enter Jerusalem for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was due to hold a meeting with top security officials on Friday morning. It was not immediately clear whether Israel would go ahead or change its plan to allow Palestinian worshipers to enter Jerusalem. Protests and clashes in the holy city during Ramadan last year eventually ignited the 11-day Gaza War.

“We will expand the scope of our action against the wave of terror through crime, defense and intelligence,” Defense Secretary Benny Gantz said before the meeting. “The price we will extort from the attackers and those who sent them will be enormous.”

Thursday’s shooting took place at a crowded bar on Dizengoff Street, a central thoroughfare that has seen other attacks over the years. Thursday night is the start of the Israeli weekend, and the area was packed with people in bars and restaurants.

In videos spread on social media, dozens of panicked people were seen running through the streets as police searched for the attacker and ordered people to stay indoors.

Hundreds of Israeli police officers, canine units and army special forces launched a massive search operation overnight in Tel Aviv, searching the building through densely populated residential areas.

Early Friday, officials said they found the attacker hiding near a mosque in Jaffa, an Arab neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv, and killed him in a shootout.

Israeli police chief Kobi Shabtai said his forces, the military and the Shin Bet security agency had spent a “tough night” tracking down the attacker.

“This morning, through intelligence and operational support, we were able to close the cordon and kill the terrorist in the encounter,” he said.

The Shin Bet identified the attacker as Ra’ad Hezem, a 28-year-old Palestinian man from Genin, occupied by the West Bank.

It indicated that he acted alone, adding that he did not belong to an organized terrorist group and had no prior record. It said he had entered Israel illegally without a permit.

The Jenin refugee camp was the scene of one of the deadliest battles of the Second Palestinian Intifada, or insurgency. In April 2002, Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the camp for nearly three weeks. According to the United Nations, at least 52 Palestinians, including twenty-three Israeli soldiers and civilians, were killed.

The Israeli military frequently conducts arrest raids in Jenin, which often comes under fire. The Palestinian Authority, which manages parts of the occupied West Bank and coordinates with Israel on security matters, has little control over the region.

Following Thursday’s attack, 13 Israelis have been killed in recent weeks, making it one of the deadliest waves of violence in years.

The militant Hamas group, which rules the Gaza Strip, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility.

The attacks have posed a challenge to the Israeli authorities. All attackers seem to have acted individually or with minimal support from a small cell. Three of them are believed to have been identified with the extremist group Islamic State. But it appears that the militant groups have not trained them or organized the attacks.

To avoid a repeat of last year’s war, Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a flurry of meetings in recent weeks to keep the peace.

Israel has taken several steps aimed at de-escalating tensions, including issuing thousands of additional work permits to Palestinians from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. But the attacks have raised calls for strict action in Israel.

Before the attack, Israel said it would allow more than 40 women, children and men from the occupied West Bank to offer prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on Friday, the first weekly prayer of Ramadan. Tens of thousands were expected to attend, and thousands of police were to be mobilized for the meetings. It was unclear how Thursday’s shooting would affect those plans.

The mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and is located on top of a hill that is the holiest site for Jews, who call it Temple Mount. The holy site has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Israel has in recent years worked to sidestep the Palestinian issue, instead focusing on building alliances with Arab states against Iran. But the age-old struggle remains as unshakable as ever.

In the 1967 Middle East war, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinians want all three regions to build their future state. The last real peace talks broke down more than a decade ago, and Bennett is opposed to the Palestinian state, although he supports steps to improve their economy and daily quality of life.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move recognized internationally and considers the entire city as its capital. It is building and expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which most of the international community considers illegal.

It withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005. But two years later, the militant Hamas group imposed a crippling blockade on the region, along with neighboring Egypt, after seizing power from rival Palestinian forces. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since then.

Israel says the conflict stems from the Palestinians’ refusal to acknowledge their right to exist as a Jewish state and blames the attacks on provocation on social media. Palestinians say such attacks are the inevitable result of nearly 55 years of military occupation that shows no signs of ending.

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Cross reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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