Tel Aviv (TPS) – Two Palestinian gunmen in suits opened fire on a crowd of shoppers and diners in Tel Aviv’s central Sarona Market shortly after 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, killing at least four victims.
“What we know so far is that two terrorists arrived at the Sarona compound while shooting at civilians. They managed to severely injure nine victims, three of whom tragically died,” stated Tel Aviv Police Chief Moshe Edri. “[The terrorists] were both neutralized and their guns captured.”
A fourth victim was pronounced dead several hours later.
Ten people arrived at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, including the four who succumbed to their wounds, the hospital announced. Four underwent surgery, including one of the terrorists.
According to the Tel Aviv police, two gunmen opened fire on the crowd outisde the compound. One assailant was shot by a security guard and the other was captured by the police without injury after ditching his firearm and attempting to blend into the crowd. Eyewitnesses report that the attackers were dressed elegantly in black suits and ties – some reportedly told police that they looked like “lawyers.”
Sarona Market is a trendy, newly-opened leisure district in central Tel Aviv. On Wednesday night the area was packed with people dining at the posh restaurants and shopping at boutique stores. Sarona is also located across the street from the Israel Defense Force headquarters – the military compound was placed under lockdown as the shooting began, an officer at the headquarters told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
Another eyewitness described a panicked attempt to flee.
“We were in Sarona and we suddenly heard gunshots and started running. Then someone let us into the kitchen of a restaurant,” Sagi Molcho told TPS while still hiding in the restaurant’s kitchen.
The terrorists were identified as Khaled Muhammed Musa Mkhamra and Muhammed Ahmed Mkhamra, two cousins from the Palestinian village of Yatta just south of Hebron. Both did not have an entry permit to Israel.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh praised the shooting, calling the terrorists “heroes,” though he stopped short of claiming responsibility. Carl Gustav machine guns were found at the scene – improvised weapons that have been frequently used by Palestinian terrorists during the recent wave of violence. Knives were also found in the terrorists’ belongings. Shortly after the attack was reported, spontaneous celebrations broke out in Palestinian communities, including dozens of Palestinians clapping and cheering at the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City. The attack occurred just a few days into the Muslim holy month or Ramadan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from Moscow shortly after the attack and held an emergency meeting with top security officials at the IDF headquarters, near the scene of the attack.
Wednesday’s attack is the latest in a months-long wave of violence against Israelis, including a New Years Day shooting in Tel Aviv that killed three Israelis. The terrorist in that attack was Nashat Melhem, an Israeli Arab.
‘”The investigation into the attack is continuing. We are still in the middle of an ongoing event I urge everyone to listen to the police today and stay out of danger,” said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai from Ichilov Hospital. “Tomorrow please return to your daily lives, since this city is a symbol of sanity and strength of character in the face of adversity.”
Jesse Lempel contributed to this report.