image Photo: Flash90

Major terror attacks in Tel Aviv

Three Israelis were murdered and at least 13 others wounded by a Palestinian gunman in the central city last night.

By Erin Viner

[This article has been updated to reflect the death of a third Israeli who later succumbed to injuries in the attack].

In the fifth such murderous act in less than two weeks that have killed 14 people dead and shaken the country, the terrorist opened fire with a pistol in every direction at the popular Ilka bar on the main Dizengoff Street about 9 PM Thursday night before escaping the scene through nearby side alleys.

Residents were warned not to leave their homes as hundreds of police, security agency operatives and IDF soldiers, assisted by a helicopter with a spotlight, launched a largescale manhunt in pursuit. The security forces engaged in a door-to-door search and set up roadblocks around Tel Aviv.

The gunman was located shortly before 5:30 AM this morning by Israel Security Agency (ISA, also known as the Shin Bet) and the elite counterterrorism Yamam Border Police forces near a mosque in the Jaffa quarter of the city. He refused to surrender and opened fire at the Israeli units, who responded by fatally shooting him.

The terrorist was identified as 29-year-old Ra’ad Hazem of Jenin in the northern West Bank. He had infiltrated Israel illegally after being denied an entry permit due to his affiliation with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades terror faction.

There were no reported injuries to the security forces.

Two of the Israeli fatalities were named as childhood friends from Kfar Saba, 27-year-olds Eytam Magini and Tomer Morad. The pair were also roommates, and Megini became only recently become engaged in March. Morad was related to an advisor to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the latter of whom pledged, “We will fight terror together, strike these contemptible terrorists wherever they hide, find those that send them and those who assist them, and we will not rest until quiet returns to the streets.”

Barak Lopen, 35, was is the third victim, who died of his wounds at the Sourasky Medical Center this afternoon. The former Olympian kayaker represented Israel in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics. He llived in Givat Shmuel, and is survived by his wife and three children.

Lopen underwent immediate surgery for critical gunshot wounds; along with three other victims, whose condition has now been stabilized. .

The latest attack came during the first week of  Muslim observance of the Ramadan holy month. There have been near-nightly confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli police at the flashpoint Damascus Gate entrance into Jerusalem’s Old City, heightening concerns over a repeat of violence that erupted last year.  Rampant violence in the capital in 2021 prompted full scale fighting with Gaza when Palestinian terror groups based in the territory fired more than 4,000 rockets at the Jewish State during the ensuing 11-day  Operation Guardian of the Walls last May.

The recent series of attacks mark the the deadliest outbreak of terrorist violence in Israel since 2006. A Bedouin Arab murdered four people in a stabbing and car ramming attack in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on 22 March, followed by the deadly shooting of two victims by two Arab gunmen in the central city of Hadera on 27 March. Israeli authorities said all of the assailants, who were killed during their deadly attacks, were loyal to Islamic State terror group. Five other people were shot to death in Bnei Brak on 29 March in an attack that was not claimed by any armed group, though residents of the West Bank village of Ya’bad linked the assailant to the Fatah party lead by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli security forces have  maintained a high state of alert in response to the rise of terrorism. 1,000 special forces soldiers have been deployed to assist police secure the nation’s borders, while 12 additional combat battalions have been assigned to the West Bank and two to the Gaza Division.

The Islamist Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza praised last night’s attack as an “heroic operation” that constitutes a “natural and legitimate response to the escalation of the occupation’s crimes,” while vowing “resistance” against Israel “is continuing and escalating.”

An official from the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group also lauded the murders.

The killer’s own father, a key figure in Abbas’ Fatah movement in Jenin and a former Palestinian security forces officer, praised his son’s actions. Palestinians “will see victory with the help of Allah, you will get liberty and independence. I pray that Allah would free al-Aqsa from the sullied occupiers,” said stated Fathi Hazem.
There were also reports that residents in Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered, handed out candy in celebration of murders of Israelis.

World condemnation, however, was quick to come.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Conflict Tor Wennesland issued a statement saying he was appalled by the attack and condemned celebrating of the killings. “There is no glory in terror,” he wrote on Twitter, stressing, “These acts must stop now & be condemned by all.”

European Union Ambassador to Israel Dimitar Tzantchev also referred to the Tel Aviv attack as “appalling.”

Also responding on Twitter, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote “We strongly condemn the terrorist attack that occurred in Israel today. We are thinking of the victims of today’s attack and the families of those killed. May the memories of those who passed be a blessing.” US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides posted, “Horrified to see another cowardly terror attack on innocent civilians, this time in Tel Aviv. Praying for peace, and sending condolences to the victims and their families. This has to stop.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev oversaw handling of the heinous act of terror throughout the night and held a security consultations this morning.

Following is the full text of a joint statement released a short time ago from Prime Minister Bennett with Defense Minister Gantz and Public Security Minister Bar-Lev:

“Citizens of Israel, this is a difficult day. From here, I would like to send condolences to the families of those who were murdered, Tomer Morad and Eytam Magini, may their memories be for a blessing, and on behalf of the entire nation, wish a quick recovery and full health to the wounded. Earlier this morning, I spoke with Tomer’s father, who told me – in his terrible pain – about his son. Tomer, Eytam and the others who have been murdered in this wave of terrorism, are the beautiful faces of this country. 

Ladies and gentlemen, after a long night, our forces got their hands on the terrorist and eliminated him. This is what we expect of our forces. 

I would like to commend the Israeli Security Service (ISA), the Israel Police and the Israel National Counter-Terrorism Unit for their determined and quick action. If they hadn’t found him and killed him now, the incident could have dragged on for days. 

We know that the terrorist was 29, from Jenin, did not belong to any organization, but he had those who helped him, in both organization and obtaining weaponry. 

Let every murderer know that we will find him. Those who aid and abet terrorists need to know that the price they will pay is too high to bear. I saw the father of the terrorist inciting to more violence and being proud of his son the murderer. We saw the celebrations and the handing out of sweets in Jenin and Gaza. These are the people we are dealing with. No, this not just a few individuals. Their desire is to break our spirit and our hold here in our land. But they will not succeed; we will never be broken. 

The incident in Tel Aviv has ended but we are not lowering our level of alert either in Tel Aviv or in the rest of the country. 

This morning we held an assessment of the situation together with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and all the heads of the security establishment. We are granting full freedom of action to the IDF, the ISA and all security forces in order to defeat the terrorism. There are no restrictions in this war nor will there be. 

Dear citizens, we are in a difficult and challenging period. It could be that it will be prolonged. The second intifada was several years but in the end we won. The wave of lone wolf terrorism in 2015-2016 continued for almost a year and cost us 50 murder victims but in the end we won. This time too, we will win. 

Attacks by lone terrorists without organizational infrastructure are a major challenge for the security establishment but it will meet them. Our enemies will seek out every crack and will exploit every opportunity to attack us. 

I have no expectations from people who celebrate the murder of Jews by handing out sweets. However, we must have high expectations of ourselves. We, as a people and a state, will all need patience and strong nerves, and to be alert. But above all we need great faith in the justice of our cause in this land. 

We will fight terrorism with a strong hand – and we will win. It is possible. Terrorism is not decreed by fate. Panic and hysteria are not a plan of action. I hereby call on the media to be responsible and level-headed and not sow unnecessary panic among the public. This is not a reality show but our lives, and our resilience as a people and a society is vital. 

The core of our strength in times like these is unity and mutual guarantee among us. We will stand together and with G-d’s help, we will win this time as well.”