Tel Aviv, Palestinian gunmen attack a shopping center: Four dead and 12 wounded

Two people opened fire on the crowd; the intervention of police and security guards prevented carnage. Theatre of the attack, Sarona Market in the city center, near the Ministry of Defence and the Army Headquarters. Israel suspends entry visas for Ramadan to 83 thousand Palestinians. Netanyahu: "A savage crime."

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The death toll from an attack yesterday evening in a commercial district of downtown Tel Aviv, Israel, is at least four dead and 12 injured, some seriously. At  21.30 yesterday two armed Palestinians opened fire at two different points of Sarona Market, located near the Israeli Ministry of Defense and not far from the most important army headquarters.

According to police sources the two assailants, who were cousins, are from Yatta, a Palestinian village near Hebron, in the West Bank. Both were dressed in suits and ties to blend into the crowd and were stopped by agents in the minutes following the attack. One of the assailants has been arrested, while the accomplice was rushed to hospital, where he underwent surgery.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the scene of the attack, calling it a "savage crime of murder and terrorism."

In response the attack, the government has suspended the entry permits - issued to coincide with Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and prayer - to 83 thousand Palestinian Muslims. An official of COGAT, the body responsible for coordinating the Israeli activities in the Palestinian Territories, confirms that "in particular the permits allocated to friends and family have been suspended [...]'".

The political leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, applauded the operation, without claiming responsibility. For the neo Israeli Interior Minister Avigdor Lieberman this is the first security crisis he has had to deal with since he took office. The attack will test his image as a strong and unyielding man facing down terrorism and an official response is expected in the coming hours.

Chico Edri, head of the Tel Aviv police, defines the attack "a terrorist event of serious entity," but at the same time denies the possibility of more violence in the short term. Shlomi Hajaj, director of Sarona market, where the attack took place, thanked the guards and security officers at the entrances who prevented the "attackers from entering the complex, averting a massacre because the place was crowded."

Since last October, after a series of provocations by ultra-Orthodox Jews who went to pray on the Temple Mount, incidents and riots have increased in Israel and the Palestinian territories, in the context of the so-called "intifada of knives". So far over 200 Palestinians, 29 Israelis, two Americans, a Sudanese and one Eritrean have been killed.

Most Palestinians were killed as they tried to stab passers-by or soldiers. Others were killed during demonstrations or clashes with the military.