What happened: Five people were shot and killed last night in Bnei Brak, just outside Tel Aviv. Two of the victims were residents of the city, one was an Israeli-Arab police officer, and two others were Ukrainian citizens.
- Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel is facing “a new wave of Arab terrorism” and promised that Israel would beat it back as it has done to previous waves of terror in the past.
- All coalition partners condemned the attack including the leader of the United Arab List Party, Mansour Abbas, who called it a “foul attack against innocent people”.
- Defence Minister Gantz said: “We have been through difficult periods, as a people and a country, in the face of waves of terrorism and we have always prevailed with resoluteness and strength, and that will be the cast this time too. The entire security establishment the IDF, the Shin Bet and the police,will act with all means to restore security to the streets of Israel and the sense of security to the citizens.”
- In an unusual move, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the attack. However, the local leader of his Fatah party in Jenin said the killer was a member of the organisation and “had died a heroic martyr’s death while killing five cursed Zionists”.
- Earlier yesterday, Gantz travelled to Jordan and met with King Abdullah II at the Royal Palace. The meeting was part of ongoing effort to ensure there is close coordination on security issues.
Context: This was the tenth terror attack this month, the third attack in the last eight days, following the attacks in Beer Sheva and Hadera, where in total 11 people have been killed.
- There is a sense that even if each attack has no direct connection, it serves to inspire the next perpetrator.
- The rise in tension was anticipated ahead of Ramadan that starts next week. This year the timing coincides with both Passover and Easter, adding to the focus on Jerusalem’s Old City, which will see an influx of worshippers from all three religions.
- Israel had been planning to take a range of measures to ease restrictions and allow for freedom of prayer in Jerusalem, including for West Bank Palestinians. The security cabinet will weigh the benefits of this, against the possibility of terrorists taking advantage of the situation.
- According to Defence Minister Gantz, Israel had also approved “additional civilian measures that will benefit Palestinians.” Earlier this week Israel increased the number of permits for Gazans to work in Israel by an additional 8,000, to a total of 20,000.
- In Gantz’s meeting with the Jordanian king yesterday, he emphasised the importance of maintaining regional peace and stability, specifically to act forcefully against ISIS. The two attacks in Beer Sheva and Hadera has been committed by Israeli Arabs who had identified with ISIS. Last night’s attacker was a Palestinian.
- The terrorist from last night has been identified as a 27-year-old from Yaabad, near Jenin, who entered Israel illegally. He opened fire indiscriminately. He murdered two people who were sitting nearby at a local grocery store, stopped a passing car and shot the driver at point-blank range and continued to fire. In the past he had served time in prison in Israel, where he joined Fatah. It is not yet clear if he had carried out his attack in the name of any particular organisation.
- Israel’s diplomatic engagement with the Arab world is at an all-time high, following Bennett’s visit to Egypt last week and the Negev Summit. In addition, Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev recently met, in secret, with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Safadi. That meeting also focused on efforts to keep the calm in Jerusalem during Ramadan.
Looking forward: In an effort to prevent further attacks, the IDF will concentrate on intelligence gathering. In parallel, both the IDF and the Israel Police will be deploying larger numbers across the country.
- The police have set the level of alert to the highest possible level. There will be augmented security at educational institutions, public transportation stations and places with large concentrations of people.
- The IDF has recruited four additional battalions to the West Bank. The IDF and Shin Bet are operating in the Jenin area and are expected to be making arrests of anyone that helped the terrorist.
- Later today, President Isaac Herzog will travel to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II. Unlike previously held visits, this will be the first public one. He will be received at the Royal Palace with a red carpet ceremony, an honour guard and with the Israeli flag present.