Manhunt for Tel Aviv terrorist ends in shootout

Two killed and 12 injured, including victim fighting for his life.

By Pesach Benson, World Israel News

A nightlong manhunt for a Palestinian who went on a terror spree in downtown Tel Aviv ended in a shootout on Friday morning.

The terrorist, identified as 28-year-old Ra’ad Fathi Hazem from Jenin, killed two and injured 12 after opening fire on Israelis on Tel Aviv’s busy downtown Dizengoff St. on Thursday night.

The identities of the two Israelis have not been released, but they were both reported to be civilians in their 20s. Ichilov officials said that one of the victims, a male, was “in immediate danger to his life.”

He first opened fire on patrons of the Ilka Bar, ran down a side street and continued firing at people.

Responding medics described the scene at the restaurant as “carnage.”

“There was chaos when we arrived,” said Tomer Gussman, one of the first Magen David Adom medics to arrive at Ilka.

Ra’anan Shimon, who was in the restaurant was shot in the face. Medics said it was “a miracle” that the bullet entered one cheek and exited the other. The 32-year was reported to be in good to moderate condition.

“I went to drink a beer with a friend at Ilka. We were sitting outside for about 15 minutes when the terrorist appeared in front of us and began to shoot,” Shimon said.

“I fell on the floor and looked for cover and went behind the beer barrels when suddenly I felt that I was dripping blood,” Shimon said. “There were a few shots and we waited until things quieted down.”

The most critical victims were evacuated to the Ichilov Hospital. Others were taken to the Sheba Medical Center and the Wolfson Hospital.

The manhunt ended nine hours later. Hazem was found in a Jaffa mosque by Shin Bet personnel and the Yamam counter-terror unit who had come to inspect security footage. Hazem opened fire at the security personnel who returned fire. None of the Israelis were injured.

According to Hebrew media reports, Hazem knew the Jaffa area well and apparently planned to hide in the mosque overnight, then leave amid a crowd of Arabs after Friday morning Ramadan prayers.

According to the Shin Bet, Hazem did not have a criminal record or any known political affiliations.

“After a long, difficult night of activity by the police, Shin Bet and IDF, we succeeded this morning — with operational and intelligence cooperation — to close the circle and kill the terrorist in an exchange of fire,” Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said Friday morning.

“We emphasized last night that no matter how long it took we would find the terrorist, dead or alive,” Shabtai said. “And when we found him this morning it required a quick reaction from the Yamam and Shin Bet forces in Jaffa.”

In the last 16 days, 13 people have been killed and 26 wounded in a wave of terror attacks.

According to a Dutch study cited by the Jerusalem Post, “Ramadan brought with it a 200% increase in terrorist attacks in Israel between 2005 and 2016.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was briefed on the situation throughout the night and will hold security consultations with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and other officials, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Footage circulating on social media showed Palestinians in Jenin and Gaza celebrating the attack.