Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
Two dead and eight wounded after gunman open fires in Tel Aviv tourist hotspot
7 April 2022, 20:07 | Updated: 7 April 2022, 20:52
At least two people have been killed and another eight wounded in a shooting in central Tel Aviv on Thursday evening, according to the Ichilov hospital near the site of the attack.
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At least one shooting occurred on Dizengoff Street, a crowded area with several bars and restaurants, Israel's Magen David Adom emergency service said.
The service said it received reports of a shooting at "several scenes" around downtown Tel Aviv.
Initial reports said one gunman has been killed, with a possible second attacker still at large.
Live footage from Israel's Kan broadcaster showed police flooding the area and training their guns on the upper story of a building.
It also showed an explosion of some kind.
Videos on social media show people fleeing in panic, with tables and chairs overturned.
People can also be seen hiding behind parked cars.
Other footage shows casualties being carried away on stretchers, with people appearing to move chairs, tables and other debris to allow emergency services through.
At least four of the wounded are critically injured.
The motive of the shooting was not immediately clear.
Eli Levy, a police spokesman, told Israel's Channel 13 that officers were at the scene and urged people to avoid the area.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was monitoring the situation from the Israeli military headquarters, which is also in downtown Tel Aviv, his office said.
Dizengoff Street has been the scene of several deadly attacks over the years.
Most recently, an Arab citizen of Israel shot and killed two Israelis and wounded several others on the street in January 2016.
The popular nightlife area was packed on Thursday evening, the beginning of the Israeli weekend.
Tensions have been high after a series of attacks by Palestinian assailants killed 11 people just ahead of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, which began nearly a week ago.
Last year, protests and clashes during Ramadan ignited an 11-day Gaza war.
Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a flurry of meetings in recent weeks, and Israel has taken a number of steps aimed at calming tensions, including issuing thousands of additional work permits for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.
Prior to the attack, Israel had said it would allow women, children and men over 40 from the occupied West Bank to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem on Friday, the first weekly prayers of Ramadan. Tens of thousands were expected to attend.
The mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and sits on a hilltop that is the most sacred site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. The holy site has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future state.
The last serious and substantive peace talks broke down more than a decade ago, and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposed to Palestinian statehood.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally and considers the entire city to be its capital.
It withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but along with neighbouring Egypt it imposed a crippling blockade on the territory after the militant Hamas group seized power from rival Palestinian forces two years later.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since then.