Israel Revokes Palestinian Travel Permits After Deadly Tel Aviv Attack

The Sarona Market in Tel Aviv - Photo from Wikipedia

Israel has retaliated against the deadly terrorist attacks on one of its most popular, open-air markets in Tel Aviv by revoking all Palestinian permits to Israel and freezing Israeli work permits for the attackers’ relatives.

Two Palestinian gunmen opened fire at the Sarona Market at around 9:00 p.m., killing four civilians and wounding 13 more, according to Israel’s national emergency service. The attack sowed chaos in what had been a peaceful night and is said to be one of the deadliest in a spate of violence that has been going on for eight months.

The gunmen were identified as Khaled Makhamra, 22, and Muhammad Makhamra, 21, both from the village of Yatta in the, known to be a hot-spot of violent Palestinian activity.

In response, all 83,000 permits for Palestinians traveling to and from Israel during the holy Muslim Ramadan have been held, says COGAT, an Israeli defense organization. 204 work permits for the attackers’ relatives have been frozen as well, and the Israeli military is preventing people from leaving and entering Yatta in the West Bank, where the attackers came from. COGAT says entering or leaving will only be allowed for humanitarian and medical purposes.

Israeli officials reported that the men were dressed as Hasidic Jews and opened fire in the mixed-use development complex located across from the Israeli military headquarters. Surveillance footage shows people scrambling as the shooting began, overturning table and chairs as they ran to escape. Some were crawling and others carried children away.

One of the gunmen was shot by the police while the other surrendered and is now being treated at a hospital. Four of the Israelis wounded in the gunfire were brought to the Ichilov Hospital, where they later died.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his defense minister and Israeli leaders shortly after the attack, before proceeding to the market. He called the incident a “cold blooded murder by despicable terrorists,” and “a savage crime, murder in the heart of Tel Aviv,” in a statement.

Shlomi Hajaj, Sarona Market’s director, told CBS News that security guards at the entrance to the market prevented the gunmen from entering, “averting a bigger disaster” as the market was filled with people.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has taken over Gaza, praised the attack, with official Mushir al-Masri calling it a “heroic operation.” The group has issued a statement warning the “Zionists” that this was but the “first of many surprises” to come during Ramadan.

Palestinians have conducted dozens of attacks on civilians and Israeli security in the form of stabbings, shootings and deliberate car crashes that have killed 32 Israelis and 2 Americans so far in the past eight months. Most of the attacks have been in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, which Israel took from Jordan in 1967, and which the Palestinians now want to claim for a future state.

This was not the first attack in Tel Aviv this year, either. On New Year’s Day, a gunman started shooting an automatic weapon near a pub, wounding seven people. In March, one American was killed and 10 others were wounded in a stabbing incident on a beach boardwalk.

The Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank, has been conducting “very important ongoing security coordination” with Israel officials in the aftermath of this recent attack, reports CNN.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US and current Member of Parliament Micahel Oren said Israel would be prepared, as the number of violent attacks is expected to increase due to the beginning of Ramadan. “This is a country, which over the course of its 68-year history, has grown tragically accustomed to these types of attacks,” he said. “We are very resilient.”

US State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner condemned “today’s horrific terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in the strongest possible terms.” He said, “These cowardly attacks against innocent civilians can never be justified. We are in touch with Israeli authorities to express our support and concern.”

Danny Danon, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, called on the Security Council to condemn the shooting, “Today’s heinous attack sadly proves that when the international community refuses to condemn terror against Israelis, the next attack is only a matter of time,” he said in a statement. “Terror in Tel Aviv must be treated the same as terror in Paris or Istanbul.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he was shocked Hamas “chose to welcome this attack.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that the Israeli government, “will take the necessary steps to attack the attackers and defend those who need to be defended.”

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