Israel announced today it would suspend entry permits for all Palestinians during the Ramadan holiday, including those residing in Gaza, after two gunmen from the West Bank killed four Israelis and injured eight more in Tel Aviv last night at a popular shopping center.
“All permits for Ramadan, especially permits for family visits from Judea and Samaria to Israel, are frozen,” said the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories hours after the shooting, using the biblical name for the occupied Palestinian territory.
In advance of the holy month of Ramadan Israel issued 83,000 permits to Palestinians living in both the West Bank and Gaza to enter Jerusalem for religious prayers. Holiday travel documents were also revoked during the last two summers in the wake of violent attacks on Israelis.
A further 204 relatives of the shooters from the West Bank village of Yatta outside of Hebron had their work permits cancelled.
فيديو يصور جزء من العملية في تل أبيب pic.twitter.com/R001yWmebR
— Yaser ® (@Yaser_Pal) June 8, 2016
The killings took place yesterday around 9:30pm when the two Palestinian men dressed in suits and ties as seen from CCTV footage of the incident, opened fire in an outdoor strip mall. One of the men is seen throwing his weapon on the ground during the attack. Police said they used make-shift sniper rifles, a common weapon across the West Bank.
The attack ended when officers fired on one of the shooters and arrested the other.
Police spokesperson Mickey Rosenfeld said the victims were Ido Ben Aryeh, 42, Ilana Nave, 39, Michael Feige, 58, and Mila Mishayev, 32.
Visiting the victim’s families this morning Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said, “Let the Palestinians understand – they cannot break us, anyone who lets terror to operate, will find at the end of the road the terror on his doorstep.”
After the attack Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who was in Moscow on an official visit, cut his trip short and arrived at the scene in Tel Aviv. He told reporters, “We will take the necessary steps to attack the attackers and defend those who need to be defended.”
While Netanyahu was making the statement Israeli forces entered the area surrounding Yatta in the West Bank. Overnight they raided the homes of the two shooters, identified as cousins Khaled Mohammad Makhamrah, 22, and Mohamad Ahmad Makhamrah, 21. As of this morning military units are posted at the entrance of the village preventing residents from leaving.
No Palestinian political faction has claimed responsibility for the killings.
On Thursday morning Tel Aviv’s mayor Ron Huldai said Israel’s occupation of the West Bank was a factor in understanding the cause of the attack.
“We might be the only country in the world where another nation is under occupation without civil rights,” reported the Guardian quoting from an interview Huldai made on Israel’s Army Radio.
“You can’t hold people in a situation of occupation and hope they’ll reach the conclusion everything is alright,” Huldai said.
On social media Hamas’ head Ismail Haniyeh praised the killings stating the shooters were “heroes.”
The left-block party the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed the shooting was a response to the far-right Avigdor Lieberman recent appointment as minister of defense, reported Ma’an News. The shopping center where the attack took place is located near Israel’s Ministry of Defense and military headquarters.
Lieberman was alongside Netanyahu last night during the press conference in Tel Aviv. He has not yet made a public statement on what actions he will pursue, but told reporters this morning “I don’t plan on detailing the steps we’ll be taking, but I certainly have no intentions of settling for lip service,” according to Haaretz.
There are indications he will renew punitive measures Israel used at the close of the second Intifada. Haaretz reported an official said Lieberman proposed last night to immediately demolish the family homes of the two shooters during a security cabinet meeting. Lieberman also reportedly backed a suggestion made during the round table for Israel to stop returning the remains of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks and alleged attacks on Israelis, which was done during the last Palestinian uprising. Since then, bodies have been returned through either court orders or special agreements made with the Palestinian Authority.
The killings come during a period of increased violence between Israelis and Palestinians since last October. In the past eight months Palestinians killed more than 30 Israelis in attacks and Israeli forces and civilians killed at least 190 Palestinians. Yet in recent weeks the number of incidents slowed.
Earlier this week the West Bank’s main pollster the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey, found support for confrontations with Israel had declined among Palestinians. Half of the Palestinian population agreeing this current period of violence had already ended.