Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcoming In The New Year Amid Terror Fears, Tel Aviv Shooting Attack; Gunman On The Loose

2 killed, 7 wounded in Tel Aviv shooting attack; gunman on loose

Two people were killed and two others seriously wounded in a shooting attack in Tel Aviv just before 3 p.m. Friday. Five others were wounded — three in moderate condition and two with light injuries.

Witnesses said some 15 shots were fired in the attack, apparently in semiautomatic bursts from a Kalashnikov or similar rifle.

The shots were fired at locations near the city’s well-known Dizengoff Center Mall, an area that is crowded on Friday afternoons.

Eyewitnesses said the gunman fired into at least three establishments in the area — a bar, a restaurant and a cafe, and then fled. One of the cafe staffers said several people chased after him “but he disappeared” into a side-street.

The two fatalities were pronounced dead at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. Four others were receiving treatment there, including at least two victims who were immediately taken into surgery, the hospital said.

The three people who sustained moderate wounds were taken to Tel Hashomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva and Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, according to the Magen David Adom rescue service.

A massive police manhunt was underway for the attacker, with roads around the attack site closed by police. Officers from the police special forces unit Yasam were seen scouring local neighborhoods in the aftermath of the attack. Tel Aviv residents also reported closures at the central bus station, on the other side of the city.

The initial investigation showed that it was impossible to determine whether the attack was nationalist or criminal in nature, and both avenues were being pursued. Investigators were dispatched to hospitals to interview victims in an attempt to determine if there were any possible criminal motives for the attack.

According to Army Radio, the Shin Bet said it did not have any warning of an impending attack.

Nati Shaked, one of the co-owners of the Rafinta Bar where the shooting took place, told Army Radio he saw “someone armed with an automatic rifle just walking in the street. He saw a lot of people here who he could shoot at, and started to shoot.”
The attacker “shot everywhere. There was hysteria and chaos.”

“We were sitting outside and to our surprise we suddenly started hearing five or six gunshots in close succession. Everyone who was on the street started to run like mad,” the shift supervisor at Rafinta, identified only as Hadar, told the Maariv website.

“We ran into the kitchen with the customers. We waited until the gunfire abated. One of the waiters told us that the gunfire had been directed into the bar,” she said.
An eyewitness who was also in the bar said the gunman “appeared in the doorway, smiling, and opened fire.” She said she would “never forget that smile on his face.”

She described the gunman as shorter than average height, wearing black, brandishing a machine-gun, and wearing black-rimmed spectacles. She said he fired “salvoes” of gunfire, indiscriminately.

 Millions of people around the world welcomed in the New Year on high security alert, with Munich stations evacuated over an imminent terror threat and fireworks canceled in Paris and Brussels, while a huge fire ripped through a Dubai hotel.

German police warned people to stay away from two of Munich’s railway stations and avoid large gatherings after “indications that a terror attack” was being planned by Islamists in the southern German city.

Authorities said early Friday the threat involved a suspected suicide bomb attack by the Islamic State group. A police spokeswoman told AFP they had “reliable information” that the plot targeted festivities under way on New Year’s Eve.

Elsewhere in Europe, terror fears also loomed large, with firework displays canceled in Brussels and Paris, just weeks after jihadists killed 130 people on the streets of the French capital.

More than 100,000 police were deployed throughout France to guard celebrations, as defiant Parisians turned out on the Champs Elysees to greet 2016 in the biggest public gatherings since the November 13 attacks.
In his New Year address, President Francois Hollande said France “has not finished with terrorism yet” and that the threat of another attack “remains at its highest level.”
Belgian police were holding five people over an alleged New Year attack plot in Brussels, as well as arresting a 10th suspect over the Paris attacks.
In Dubai, a vast blaze ripped through a luxury 63-story hotel, the Address Downtown, close to the world’s tallest tower where people had gathered to ring in the New Year.
But authorities put on a spectacular show, refusing to let the hotel blaze, which injured 16 people, disrupt celebrations.
In Moscow, police for the first time closed off Red Square, where tens of thousands of revelers traditionally gather.
“It’s no secret that Moscow is one of the choice targets for terrorists,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said ahead of the celebrations.
In Britain, Scotland Yard said around 3,000 officers were deployed across central London in what was reported to be an unprecedented anti-terror security effort.

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