Five people were shot dead by a Palestinian gunman near Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Israeli police said, marking the third such attack in Israel within a week.
The attack started in the ultra-orthodox city of Bnei Brak, just east of Tel Aviv. A police spokesperson said a preliminary investigation found that at least one assailant used an assault rifle against civilians in several locations before being killed by local police forces.
The attacker was Dia Hamarsheh, 27, from a village near Jenin in the West Bank, according to Israeli police. He was armed with an M-16 assault rifle, the police said.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – the armed wing of the Palestinian Fatah movement – took responsibility for the attack and said it was “a clear message written in blood in response to the Negev summit,” referring to the historic meeting hosted by Israel earlier this week with foreign ministers from four Arab countries and the United States.
Among the five dead was a police officer who engaged with the attacker, police said in a statement. One of the five victims was Yechezkel Avishai David, 30, who was holding his baby when the shooter killed him, police said. The baby was unhurt.
Two Ukrainian citizens – who were sitting in front of a convenience store – were also killed in the shooting. The Ukrainian victims were not refugees and had already been in the country prior to the start of Russia’s war on their country, according to Israeli media.
The other two Israelis killed in the attack were identified as Shalom Yaakov Israel, 37, from Bnei Brak and 32-year-old Police Sergeant Amir Khoury.
The attack came the day after a landmark regional summit in Israel’s Negev desert saw top diplomats from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, Israel and the United States meet to discuss security issues.
The death toll from Tuesday’s attack brings the number of people killed in such attacks in the last week to 11.
Last Tuesday, four people were killed in the southern city of Be’er Sheva in a stabbing and ramming attack by a man who had been previously arrested for supporting ISIS.
On Sunday, two assailants affiliated with ISIS killed two and wounded six in a shooting attack in Hadera, about 31 miles north of Tel Aviv.
In a tweet, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that “Israel is facing a wave of murderous Arab terrorism.”
“My heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones tonight, and I pray for the well-being of the wounded,” he wrote. “The security forces are working. We will fight terror with perseverance, stubbornness and an iron fist. They will not move us from here.”
Israeli police were placed on the highest alert level, according to a police spokesperson, who said that all the district’s task force headquarters will deal with ongoing security – meaning that police will stop most of its other activities and focus on counter terrorism, presence on the streets and civilian security.
In addition, Israel’s police commissioner ordered the reinforcement of thousands of police officers on missions of securing educational institutions, central stations and crowded places.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also announced they were sending additional troops into the West Bank.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack on Israeli civilians in a statement, saying that “killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians only leads to a further deterioration of the situation, as we all strive to achieve stability, especially as we are approaching the holy month of Ramadan and Christian and Jewish holidays.”
The statement also said “Abbas warned against exploiting this condemned incident to carry out attacks and reactions against our Palestinian people by settlers and others,” adding that “the cycle of violence confirms that permanent, comprehensive and just peace is the shortest and correct way to provide security and stability for the Palestinian and Israaeli people and the people of the region.”
Palestinian militant groups, however, like Islamic Jihad praised the attack. Hamas called the attack a “heroic” operation while the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said it was “a clear message written in blood in response to the Negev summit” referring to the meeting of foreign dignitaries.
ISIS claimed responsibility for both the attack in Be’er Sheva and Hadera. ISIS had not claimed responsibility for an attack in Israel since 2017.
Separately, tensions have been rising between Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem and the West Bank, especially as the coinciding holidays of Ramadan, Passover and Easter approach. Last year, clashes and tensions in Jerusalem during this time period helped trigger the latest conflict with Hamas-led militants in Gaza.
In Jerusalem, there have been at least three stabbing attacks since the start of the month against Israelis, while in the West Bank, at least nine Palestinians, including several teenagers, have been shot and killed in clashes with Israeli forces in recent weeks.
Amir Tal, Elliot Gotkine, Mostafa Salem and Lianne Kolirin contributed to this report.