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.
“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.
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.