A knife-wielding man on Tuesday killed four people and seriously injured two others in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba before being shot dead by armed residents, police said.
Police say the assailant rammed a cyclist with his car and stabbed five people in a part of the town centre. Amateur video footage posted online appeared to show armed bystanders shooting and killing the attacker at the scene.
Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai told reporters during a press briefing at the scene that the incident was ‘an abominable killing by a terrorist known to the security services’ who had already served a prison sentence . He added that the attacker appeared to have acted alone.
Shabtai declined to comment further on the suspect, but Israeli media identified the attacker as a 34-year-old Arab from the nearby Bedouin town of Hura. He was reportedly jailed for four years after admitting he intended to join the Islamic State group in Syria in 2015.
Tensions have risen in Israel and the Palestinian territories as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaches in April this year – a time when violence has erupted in the past.
In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israeli security forces were exercising “maximum vigilance” following the attack. It is the highest death toll in a single attack on Israelis since 2017, when a Palestinian man rammed his truck into a group of soldiers visiting a Jerusalem promenade, killing four of them. He was shot.
Several Palestinian stabbing attacks have taken place in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in recent weeks, with some of the suspected attackers being shot dead by Israeli forces.
Washington condemns “heinous” attack
Omer Barlev, the minister in charge of police, wrote on Twitter that the attack was carried out “by a terrorist cursed that it would have been better if he had not been released from prison in 2019”.
Bennett issued a statement of condolence to the families of the victims and said “we will work with a heavy hand against those who commit terror. We will also pursue and reach those who assist them.”
Washington strongly condemned the “heinous…terrorist attack,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, offering condolences to the victims and their families.
Hamas militant group spokesman Hazem Qassem hailed the attack as “a response to the policy of ethnic expulsion” against Israel’s Arab citizens.