JERUSALEM — At least four people were killed and several seriously wounded in a mass shooting at a trendy Tel Aviv food market Wednesday night. The attacks occurred near Israel’s version of the Pentagon.
Police said two assailants were in custody. One of the gunmen was wounded. Israeli authorities described the shooting as a terror attack.
The attackers’ identities were not released. Police said the two gunmen were members of the same family from the Palestinian village of Yatta, near the city of Hebron in the West Bank.
At about 9:30 p.m. local time, authorities were alerted to shots being fired in the crowded Sarona Market complex in central Tel Aviv. The open-air mall is across the road from the Ministry of Defense and the central headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces, one of the most secure sites in the country.
Israeli media reported that two men had opened fire on people in several locations.
Magen David Adom, Israel’s first-aid agency, reported evacuating 10 injured people from the scene. Three of the injured died after reaching nearby Ichilov Hospital, and a fourth died sometime later; three more are in critical condition. It is uncertain whether they will survive, a hospital spokesman told Israeli radio.
According to reports in the Israeli media, citing witnesses and emergency workers, the two shooters were dressed in smart attire — white shirts, ties, jackets and black pants. It was first reported that they were dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews but that was discounted by Israel police spokeswoman Luba Samri.
Samri said that police also ruled out the presence of a third assailant on the scene, even though the dead and injured were spread across a wide area in the streets around Sarona Market.
A witness at the scene told Israel’s Channel 10 news that the two men had sat first at the bar of a famous Israeli chocolatier, Max Brenner, and afterward had opened fire at a busy restaurant opposite. Others who saw the two in the restaurant said they looked like lawyers.
Because the attack took place across the road from the military headquarters, guards and soldiers were on the scene within minutes.
As events were unfolding in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Israel after a three-day trip to Russia. He immediately called a meeting of his emergency security cabinet in the Defense Ministry.
Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, welcomed the attack but did not claim responsibility for it, the Associated Press reported. Hamas official Mushir al-Masri called the shootings a “heroic operation,” and the group later issued an official statement promising the “Zionists” more “surprises” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Tonerm condemned the “horrific terrorist attack” in a statement and said “cowardly attacks against innocent civilians can never be justified.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement he was shocked that Hamas leaders “chose to welcome this attack.”