BNEI BRAK (Israel), March 30 — Five people were killed in gun attacks yesterday near the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, emergency responders said, in the third fatal gun or knife spree in the Jewish state in a week.

Residents of the ultra-orthodox town of Bnei Brak and the neighbouring town of Ramat Gan reported that a man had driven around and opened fire at passers-by, and Israeli police later said that security forces killed the assailant.

They did not reveal his identity, but Israeli media reported a Palestinian from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, who had spent four years in the Jewish state’s prisons, was linked to the attacks. They named him as Diaa Hamarshah.

“We unfortunately have to note that five people have died,” said Eli Bin, the head of the Magen David Adom emergency responders, revising up a death toll of two from shootings in two locations in Bnei Brak.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank, issued a rare condemnation of the attacks.

“The killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians will only lead to further deterioration of the situation, while we are all striving for stability,” Abbas said in a statement carried by the Wafa news agency.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads an ideologically disparate coalition government ranging from Jewish nationalists to Arabs, said the country was “facing a wave of murderous... terrorism”.

Police were deployed in large numbers in Bnei Brak late in the evening, AFP journalists at the scene said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shootings.

Bennett said he would convene an emergency meeting with top security officials to review the situation.

Spate of attacks

Yesterday's killings marks the third deadly attack in Israel in the span of one week, bringing the combined death toll to 11, excluding perpetrators.

A shooting on Sunday killed two Israeli police officers — identified as Shirel Aboukrat, a French-Israeli citizen, and Yezen Falah — in the northern city of Hadera.

That attack was later claimed by the Islamic State group — the jihadists’ first claim of an attack on Israeli territory since 2017.

Israeli police had said that the two perpetrators of the Hadera attack were killed at the scene.

Hamas, the Islamic Palestinian movement that rules the Gaza Strip, praised Sunday’s attack as a “natural and legitimate response” to Israeli “crimes against our people”.

It was also welcomed by the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad militant group and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

The Sunday attack coincided with a landmark meeting bringing together Israel’s foreign minister with those of four Arab countries with ties to the Jewish state, as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Last week, a convicted IS sympathiser killed four Israelis in a stabbing and car-ramming spree in the southern city of Beersheba.

Spiral of violence

The attacks near Tel Aviv come as Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz visits Jordan, where he met King Abdullah II in a bid to ensure calm in the Palestinian territories during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Tensions flared last year during the fasting month, which starts in April, between Israeli forces and Palestinians visiting Al-Aqsa mosque in annexed east Jerusalem, feeding into 11 days of armed conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Jordan’s king called on Gantz to “lift all obstacles that could prevent (Muslims) from performing prayers” at Al-Aqsa and “prevent any provocations that could lead to escalation”.

The German government late Tuesday warned against a spiral of violence.

“All those who have responsibilities and influence must clearly condemn these acts of violence in order to avoid a new escalation,” a German foreign ministry spokesman said, ahead of the “holidays to come for Jews, Muslims and Christians”. — AFP