Jerusalem (Times Of Ocean)- At least five people were killed in a shooting rampage that took place in a crowded city in central Israel late Tuesday night. Police killed the shooter.
The shooting appears to be the latest in a string of attacks by Arab assailants ahead of the volatile Muslim holy month of Ramadan. According to Israeli media, the attacker was a Palestinian from the West Bank. The previous two attacks carried out by Arab citizens of Israel who were inspired by the Islamic State extremist group have raised concerns of further violence.
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s prime minister, convened a meeting of top security officials on Tuesday.
The shootings took place at two locations in Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox city just east of Tel Aviv. The police said in a statement that a preliminary investigation revealed that the gunman opened fire on passersby before he was shot by officers on the scene.
Speaking to reporters at the scene, a police official clarified that the gunman and four victims were pronounced dead.
Israeli media reported that the suspected gunman was a 27-year-old Palestinian man from Yabad in the northern West Bank. The identity of the suspect was not immediately disclosed.
Video footage aired on Israeli television appeared to show a gunman in a black shirt firing into a moving vehicle with an assault rifle.
Last Sunday, two young police officers were killed in the central city of Hadera during a shooting spree, and last week, four people were killed in Beersheba during a car ramming and stabbing attack by a lone attacker.
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli security services raided the homes of at least 12 Arab citizens and arrested two suspected of having links to the Islamic State group in a crackdown sparked by recent deadly attacks.
Bennett had called the recent assaults inside Israel a “new situation” that necessitated heightened security measures just hours before the raid.
Overnight, 31 homes and sites were searched in northern Israel, an area where the gunmen who carried out the Hadera attack lived.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the previous two attacks.
Leaders in Israel condemned the killings and pointed to the timing. The attacks came ahead of Ramadan, which starts later this week, and as Israel hosted a high-profile meeting between four Arab countries and the United States this week. Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, along with the United States, condemned the killings.
Ramadan is set to begin on Saturday. Israeli police clashed with Muslim protesters during the holy month of Ramadan last year, resulting in an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. Hamas praised the operation as “heroic.”
This year, Israel has taken steps to avoid a recurrence of violence with the Palestinians. IS attacks inside Israel, as well as attacks by Arab citizens of Israel, are rare.
The group primarily operates in Iraq and Syria, where it has recently intensified attacks on security forces. It does not control any territory but operates through sleeper cells. In the past, IS has claimed attacks against Israeli troops and has branches in Afghanistan and other countries.