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Four Israelis Dead in Tel Aviv Shopping Mall Attack

Two attackers identified as Palestinians from a village near the West Bank opened fire at the Saron Market, officials said, and are in custody.
Image: At least three killed in Tel Aviv shooting
Police respond at the scene of a shooting in Tel Aviv, Israel.Jim Hollander / EPA
/ Source: Reuters

Four Israelis were reported killed and several others were wounded Wednesday night in a gun attack in an Israeli shopping mall, police said.

Two attackers, whom police described as relatives in their 20s from the Hebron area, were captured.

The attack took place at the Sarona Market, a popular indoor/outdoor culinary market in central Tel Aviv that draws crowds of shoppers and diners, officials said. The mall is near national military headquarters.

“Two terrorists opened fire at civilians," Tel Aviv district police commander Moshe Edri said, adding that one of the detained attackers was being treated for a gunfire wound.

Among the developments:

  • Police said the gunmen were Palestinians from village of Yatta, near the city of Hebron in the West Bank.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his defense minister and security leaders and then traveled to the scene. He called the attack a "cold blooded murder by despicable terrorists."
  • Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, welcomed the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.
  • The U.S. condemned the "horrific terrorist attack" and said it is in contact with Israeli authorities.

A witness, Avraham Liber, said he was sitting at the restaurant Max Brenner with friends when he heard gunshots and saw one of the attackers rise from a seat at a nearby cafe.

"He got up, he had a rifle in his hand," Liber said. "He was just shooting point blank at people sitting down."

Yoni Yagodovsky, a spokesman for Israel's emergency rescue service, Magen David Adom, told MSNBC that in addition to the dead there were several wounded, some of them seriously. Because people scattered from the gunfire, rescue workers found victims in about five different areas of the mall, he said.

Another witness, Eyal Oved, told Reuters that he was attending a business meeting when he heard what sounded like a machine gun firing 30 or 40 rounds. He ran to the scene and saw two people wounded in a restaurant.

Israeli security forces at the shooting scene.JACK GUEZ / AFP - Getty Images

A police spokesman confirmed four Israelis were killed in the attack.

Netanyahu called the attack "a savage crime" and said the bloodshed could have been worse but for the "the resolute action of citizens, of security people, police."

"This is a savage crime of murder and terrorism in the heart of Tel Aviv. It’s done by criminal terrorists who don’t value human life, who are willing to murder innocent citizens who were sitting in a coffee shop," Netanyahu said.

"We are going to take the necessary steps to attack the attackers and to defend those who need to be defended," he said.

The U.S. State Department condemned the attack and said the U.S. is in contact with Israeli authorities.

"The United States condemns today’s horrific terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in the strongest possible terms," State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement. "These cowardly attacks against innocent civilians can never be justified," Toner said.

The attack raised concerns of a renewal of street attacks by Palestinians against Israelis. While Hamas did not claim responsibility, the group later issued an official statement promising the "Zionists" with more "surprises" in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A series of stabbings began last October and lasted several months. The attacks left 28 Israelis and two Americans dead, the AP reported; about 200 Palestinians, most of whom the government described as attackers, were killed during that time.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, called on the Security Council to condemn the attack and drew comparisons to terror attacks in other cities.

"Today’s heinous attack sadly proves that when the international community refuses to condemn terror against Israelis, the next attack is only a matter of time," Danon said in a statement. "Terror in Tel Aviv must be treated the same as terror in Paris or Istanbul."

U.S. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did condemn the attack, and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and the government of Israel. "There is no justification for terrorism nor for the glorification of those who commit such heinous acts," his spokesperson said in a statement.

"The Secretary-General is shocked that the leaders of Hamas have chosen to welcome this attack and some have chosen to celebrate it," the statement said. "He calls upon the Palestinian leadership to live up to their responsibility to stand firmly against violence and the incitement that fuels it."

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai visited Ichilov Hospital after the shooting, vowing that the city would "continue with our lives." He said additional forces were on hand in response to the attacks.

Tel Aviv's city hall was illuminated with the flag of Israel overnight. "Sad night, but this city WILL NOT stop!" the city announced on its Twitter page.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton condemned the "heinous terrorist attack." She said in a statement she stands "in unwavering support of the country’s right to defend itself," and said "Israel’s security must remain non-negotiable."

This story is developing, check back for updates