Israeli PM gives security forces free rein to act after attack
Israel's Prime Minister on Friday gave security agencies "full freedom" of operation to curb surging violence, after the latest deadly attack saw a Palestinian gunman kill two men in a popular nightlife area.
"There are not and will not be limits for this war," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said, speaking hours after the attack in Tel Aviv.
Bennett said in a statement: “We are granting full freedom of action to the army, the Shin Bet and all security forces in order to defeat the terror,” Bennett added. “There are not and will not be limits for this war.” #EndIsraeliApartheid https://t.co/3nAtjucpKk— "Solidarity is a verb" (@SaveSJarrah) April 8, 2022
"We are granting full freedom of action to the army, the Shin Bet (the domestic security agency) and all security forces in order to defeat the terror," he added, in a public address in the Israeli coastal city.
The Palestinian movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the Islamic Jihad group praised the attack but have stopped short of claiming responsibility.
Earlier on Friday, Israeli police said they had shot dead a Palestinian gunman who killed two Israeli men and wounded over a dozen others when he opened fire on a street of busy bars and restaurants crowded on a Thursday evening.
Some 1,000 heavily armed police and army troops fanned out across Tel Aviv hunting for the perpetrator for hours, as locals hid in restaurant kitchens and in their homes.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, speaking alongside Bennett, said officers had made "around 200 arrests", adding that "if necessary there will be thousands."
The two Israeli men killed were named as Tomer Morad and Eytam Magini, both 27 and childhood friends from the city of Kfar Saba.
Special forces confronted the attacker in the old city of Jaffa near Tel Aviv, where thousands of Palestinians still live, "eliminating the terrorist by exchange of fire", police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas condemns Tel Aviv terror attack #PalestinianTerror #Palestinians #Israel https://t.co/Pcu5lFKLUP— Eli Dror (@edrormba) April 8, 2022
Israel's Shin Bet agency named the assailant as Raad Hazem, 28, from Jenin in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where last week Israeli forces killed three in a raid.
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, saying "the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians only leads to a further deterioration of the situation," the official Wafa news agency reported.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also criticised the "terrorist attack" and said Washington stood with Israel "in the face of senseless terrorism and violence."
A total of 13 people have been killed in attacks in Israel since March 22, including some carried out by assailants linked to or inspired by the Islamic State group.
Over the same period, at least nine Palestinians have also been killed, amid increasing Israeli violence in the West Bank.
Fathi Hazem, the father of the attacker, struck a defiant tone as he spoke to hundreds of well-wishers at the family home in Jenin, saying the Palestinians people were looking for "freedom and independence".
On Thursday night, Islamic Jihad "welcomed" the attack as a "natural response" to Israel's "crimes".
Hamas praised what it called a "heroic operation", while Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah movement said it was a "victorious" attack.
Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, which was treating eight people injured in the shooting, said Friday morning that one of the victims was "in critical condition with an immediate risk to his life".
Eight others with less severe injuries had been treated at other hospitals and released.
The attack came the night before the first Friday prayers in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
On Friday, large numbers of Israeli security officers manned the Qalandia checkpoint, where thousands crossed from the West Bank to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in annexed east Jerusalem, the third-holiest site in Islam.
A number of Palestinians said they were turned away despite meeting criteria to enter, with some 55,000 Palestinians praying at Al-Aqsa, police said.
Last year, Israeli settlers and police attacked worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Ramadan, injuring hundreds.
Hamas responded to the attacks with rocketfire, leading to a deadly Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip which killed over 250 Palestinians and injured thousands more.