Israel mourns five shot dead by Palestinian, PM warns of terror 'wave'

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas issued a rare condemnation, saying the killings "will only lead to further deterioration of the situation, while we are all striving for stability".
At least five people were killed by a gunman on a main street in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv [Nir Elias/Reuters]
At least five people were killed by a gunman on a main street in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv [Nir Elias/Reuters]

Agency Report

Israelis on Wednesday mourned five people killed by a Palestinian gunman, the third deadly attack in a week, as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned of a "wave of murderous Arab terrorism".

"The pain is great," Bennett wrote on Twitter as several victims were laid to rest, police forces were placed on the highest alert and the army said it would deploy extra units in and around the West Bank.

The shooter, Diaa Armashah, 27, from the West Bank village of Yabad, opened fire on Tuesday evening with an M-16 assault rifle in Bnei Brak, a mostly Jewish Orthodox city near Tel Aviv, police said.

Armashah killed two Ukrainian men and two Israeli civilians before police confronted him, authorities said. An Arab-Israeli officer died in the ensuing gunfight that also killed the assailant.

"It's painful. It's your neighbours," said resident Shlomo Alperin, 23. He told AFP he had seen two dead men outside a nearby minimarket and a local man he recognised slumped, dead, in his car.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas issued a rare condemnation, saying the killings "will only lead to further deterioration of the situation, while we are all striving for stability".

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the "terrorist attack" while a spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres said "such acts of violence can never be justified and must be condemned by all".

Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Islamist Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip, however praised the "heroic operation" as "legitimate and moral valiant resistance to end the occupation".

Police said on Wednesday that they had arrested a West Bank Palestinian suspect for posting videos on TikTok "identifying with the terror attack in Bnei Brak" and an 18-year-old Israeli citizen from the Bedouin city of Rahat on suspicion of supporting the Islamic State group.

- 'Heinous terrorist attack' -

As one of the Israeli civilians, Avishai Yehezkel, 29, was laid to rest in Bnei Brak, his relative David Numa remembered him as a young yeshiva student and family man.

"He got married about a year and a half ago," Numa told AFP. "He has a two-year-old son and his wife is eight months pregnant."

Yaakov Shalom, 36, of Bnei Brak and Amir Khoury, 32, an Arab Christian policeman from Nof Hagalil, also perished in Tuesday's attack.

Bennett tweeted a salute to Khoury, saying he "sacrificed himself heroically to save human lives, leaving behind a grieving and wounded family".

The Ukrainian embassy condemned the "heinous terrorist attack" without immediately naming its two nationals, men aged 23 and 32.

Israel was home to around 15,000 Ukrainians before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. It has since received nearly 20,000 refugees from Ukraine, an interior ministry spokeswoman said.

A Ukrainian diplomatic source told AFP the men killed were workers who had been in Israel for several years.

Yehezkel and Shalom were buried Wednesday, while Khoury was set to be laid to rest in Nazareth on Thursday.

- Spate of attacks -

"Israel is facing a wave of murderous Arab terrorism," said Bennett, whose disparate coalition government ranges from Jewish nationalists to Arabs.

Tuesday's shooting brings to 11 the total death toll from attacks in Israel over the past week, excluding the perpetrators.

On Sunday, two gunmen killed two Israeli police officers -- identified as Shirel Aboukrat, a French-Israeli citizen, and Druze Israeli Yezen Falah -- in the northern city of Hadera.

That assault by Arab citizens of Israel was later claimed by the Islamic State group -- the jihadists' first claim of an attack on Israeli territory since 2017.

Israeli police said the two assailants were killed on the scene.

Hamas praised that attack, as did the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad militant group and Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

Sunday's attack coincided with a landmark meeting between Israel's foreign minister and 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 latest attack came as Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited Jordan's King Abdullah II to discuss ways to ensure calm in the Palestinian territories during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Jordan serves as the custodian of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Tensions flared last year during the fasting month, leading to 11 days of heavy armed conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

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