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Gunman kills 5 people in shooting rampage near Tel Aviv

A dead body on the ground at the scene of an attack in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, on March 29. (Nir Elias/Reuters)
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TEL AVIV — A Palestinian gunman wielding an M16 assault rifle shot and killed five people in a suburb of Tel Aviv before he was gunned down by police Tuesday night, officials said, the latest in a string of deadly attacks inside Israel in recent days.

The rampage in Bnei Brak, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox city, marked one of the worst terrorist attacks in Israel in years and came as Israeli authorities warned of a potential surge in violence ahead of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which this year will also coincide with the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter.

“Israel is facing a wave of murderous Arab terror,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement Tuesday.

On Sunday, two Palestinian citizens of Israel shot and killed two policemen in the northern city of Hadera, an attack that came amid a summit between Israeli and Arab diplomats in the Negev desert. The Islamic State group, which has staged only a handful of attacks in Israel, claimed responsibility for the shooting. Last week, another Palestinian Israeli previously convicted for his Islamic State ties stabbed and killed four Israelis in the southern city of Beer Sheva.

In Bnei Brak on Tuesday, the assault began just before 8 p.m. local time, authorities said. The gunman walked through the city, gunning down two Ukrainian citizens sitting at the entrance of a convenience store, then fatally shooting two Israeli men before being shot by an Israeli police officer, an Arab man from the northern town of Nof Hagalil, according to an Israeli police statement. The gunman fired back, injuring the officer who later succumbed to his wounds at the hospital.

Menachem Englander, a local medic with Israel’s national ambulance service, said in a statement that after hearing gunshots Tuesday night, he “immediately went out to the street and saw a terrorist pointing a weapon at me.”

“By a miracle, his weapon jammed and he couldn’t shoot,” Englander said. “I immediately went back into my house, locked my door and reported to the emergency dispatch center.”

The suspected gunman was a 27-year-old Palestinian man from the town of Yabad in the West Bank and had been staying in Israel illegally, Israeli media reported.

In the aftermath of the attack, Bnei Brak and neighboring municipalities said they would close schools and construction sites where Palestinian workers without permits are often informally employed.

Israeli Police Chief Kobi Shabtai raised the nationwide alert level to the highest possible for the first time since Israel fought a war against Hamas in Gaza in May. That conflict was sparked in part by bloody clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in Jerusalem during Ramadan.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, released a statement praising the Tuesday attack as a “heroic action against the occupation in Tel Aviv.”

The Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank, said the “killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians will only lead to a further deterioration in the situation, as we try to achieve stability on the eve of Ramadan and the Jewish and Christian holidays.”