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‘If I hadn’t been inside, it would’ve been over for me’

Witnesses describe panic and near-misses when a shooter opened fire in central Tel Aviv killing two. News channels and social media were rife with rumors and speculation as police urged calm.

Central Tel Aviv’s posh Dizengoff Street was packed with weekend shoppers and people strolling, and drinking coffee or beers Friday afternoon when a gunman opened fire on a sidewalk pub, killing two people and wounded seven others.

The shooter, who had not yet been identified at the time of this report, was still on the loose. Heavily armed police and special forces were conducting house-to-house searches in the area, a search that only expanded into the evening.

Israeli police conduct house-to-house searches for the shooter who killed two people on Tel Aviv's Dizengof St., January 1, 2016. (Dahlia Scheindlin)

Israeli police conduct house-to-house searches for the shooter who killed two people on Tel Aviv’s Dizengof St., January 1, 2016. (Dahlia Scheindlin)

CCTV video of the shooting shows a group young people sitting close together at high bar tables as a man emerges into the frame with an automatic weapon and opens fire. Another video, filmed inside a health food store next door, shows the shooter ambling around, picking up some nuts and putting them back, and calmly pulling an automatic weapon out of his backpack, stepping outside and beginning to shoot.

Witnesses said they heard long seconds of rapid gunfire and bolted for cover.

Noga Keren, a 46-year-old investment manager for a philanthropic fund, was at the “Sidewalk” café on the corner of Dizengoff. She pointed to a wooden bench inside the glass-enclosed section of the café. A single bullet hole had pierced the glass. “I was sitting on the bench. If I hadn’t been inside, it would have been over for me,” she said. She and her companions saw a man with a weapon rush around the corner as they hit the ground, then a minute later they fled inside. “It’s a tough feeling,” she said. “you just can’t imagine yourself in a situation like this.”

“I was sitting on the bench. If I hadn’t been inside, it would have been over for me,” Dizengoff, Tel Aviv, January 1, 2016. (Dahlia Scheindlin)

“I was sitting on the bench. If I hadn’t been inside, it would have been over for me,” Dizengoff, Tel Aviv, January 1, 2016. (Dahlia Scheindlin)

Alexandre Lambez, a 27 year old visiting from France, said he was in another nearby café when he heard the gunfire, and he was still in shock. His family moved to Bat Yam, a suburb south of Tel Aviv, three years ago and he was here for a wedding. He worried about the implications: “It looks like a dark future,” he said.

An employee in a large drugstore across the street from the shootings said the shop was full of customers, who panicked. Catching her breath as she spoke, she related: “Everyone ran downstairs to the storage room, lots of them, many of them were young girls who started to cry, they were hysterical. What could I do? I gave them water and my phone so they could call their mothers.” A customer said about 15 people took cover upstairs in the pharmaceutical section as well.

About 20 minutes after the incident, shoppers who had hidden in the drugstore were still filing out with stricken faces. Other businesses were crowded with people who had taken cover, waiting among the turmoil of police vans, convoys of public buses that had frozen along Dizengoff, medics, ambulances, crowds of onlookers and photographers. Security forces ran up and down the street, cordoning off one section after another and imploring people to step behind police tape lines.

Police forensic officers, spokespeople and commanders at the scene of the shooting attack on Tel Aviv's Dizengoff's Street, January 1, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Police forensic officers, spokespeople and commanders at the scene of the shooting attack on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff’s Street, January 1, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Helicopters flew overhead, marked and unmarked police vans hurtled through the small streets around Dizengoff Street, the city’s main drag as the manhunt got under way. A seige mentality set in as businesses shut down, frightened residents peered out of windows or wandered out in slippers trying to comprehend the situation, and scurried back inside. Police published numerous messages urging the public to go on with their routine as usual, however, dismissing rumors that they had ordered residents to stay indoors.

The shooter’s motive was still not known, and for hours police gave no formal indication about whether it was a criminal attack, or “nationalist” – the national term for a politically-motivated, or terror attack.

But security officials interviewed on Israeli media were inclined to treat it as terrorism, in part because the shooter did not appear to direct his fire at one specific target, as might be expected in an organized crime hit. One television reporter spoke of the influence of ISIS in the style of the attack — although a random street shooting might just as likely recall everyday incidents in the United States.

Later in the evening, Israel’s Channel 10 identified the shooter as an Arab citizen of Israel from the north of the country, adding that the man’s father turned him in to authorities when he recognized him on CCTV footage published in the media. There was no immediate confirmation of that report.

Amir Ohana, the newest Likud member of Knesset and the first openly gay lawmaker from the socially conservative party, did take a page from the U.S. gun debate and told Channel 1 that more armed citizens could have helped contain the attack. However, Haaretz quoted the owner of the bar that was hit, saying that several people on the scene carried pistols, but didn’t return fire for whatever reason. It is possible that the speed and shock left civilians, who are not trained to handle such situations, unable to react in time.

Police spokespeople and the Tel Aviv Municipality repeatedly communicated that residents can be outside but are advised to “be extra alert.” Many residents apparently wish to stay in, however, and one moviegoer told Ynet that ushers had told them to stay put after the film. However, despite the panic and buzz, a certain knowing atmosphere hung over the streets, below the heavy storm clouds and behind people’s descriptions, as if even residents of Tel Aviv – what some call a “bubble” – were not entirely surprised.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Leffe

      When did +972 ever report on a comparable terrorist stabbing in Jerusalem?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Tony Riley

      The logical conclusion to your own magazine’s encouragement to Arabs to hate Israel.

      Take a bow, bimbo.

      Reply to Comment
      • Leffe

        @Tony

        You mean,’The chickens have come home to roost’?

        Reply to Comment
    3. Gustav

      “Later in the evening, Israel’s Channel 10 identified the shooter as an Arab citizen of Israel from the north of the country, adding that the man’s father turned him in to authorities when he recognized him on CCTV footage published in the media.”

      As much as I am disgusted by the perpetrator and those who put him up to it, I have nothing but respect for his father.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      These attempts to vilify even before facts are known are interesting.

      http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.694989

      “The father had recognized the suspect from media reports and reached out to the police….

      A relative of the suspect told Haaretz that this isn’t his first violent incident. In recent years his family would occasionally call the police due to his aggression.

      “We know he was being treated for mental [issues],” the relative said. “We haven’t heard much about him recently. He wasn’t married and we always suspected he was unstable.”

      Another relative said the suspect was not religious and was not affiliated with any political movement.

      “He is insane,” he said, expressing hope that the suspect will turn himself in, as well as voicing concern he might hurt himself.

      The principal at the local school described the suspect’s family as a “stable, typical and normative Israeli Arab family.” The father volunteers in a community watch, the relative said.

      According to the relative, the village council is set to convene tomorrow to condemn the shooting.

      Several young residents of the village who are acquainted with the suspect stressed that he wasn’t part of an organization, and that he was known as problematic.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Merkava

        Your point, BEN, is exactly…………..WHAT? That this isn’t a terrorist attack?

        Now that BEN has finished copying and pasting, does BEN have the moral courage to condemn this terrorist attack on innocent civilians having a nice time in a pub, or, is his hatred of Jews too strong to allow him to do the right thing?

        Answer the questions, BEN.

        We are waiting……

        Reply to Comment
    5. Carmen

      I assume the family of the alleged shooter is worried (with good reason) that the GoI will exact revenge on them, who had nothing to do with this shooting resulting in the death of 2 persons. I hope their homes will not be destroyed as is de’rigueur by the zionist state. The family of the killers of the Dawabshe family still live in safety and comfort in their homes. I hope the this family will be treated the same.

      IMO bystanders packing pistols but not using them is disaster averted.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        CARMEN:”IMO bystanders packing pistols but not using them is disaster averted.”

        By “disaster” CARMEN obviously means that the perpetrotor would have been shot!

        Why do I make that claim? Because I can’t imagine him worrying about Israeli civilians being hurt.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Qur'an

      Thus says the Qur’an:

      Qur’an 17:104 : And We said unto the Children of Israel after him: Dwell in the land; but when the promise of the Hereafter (wa3’dul akhirati) cometh to pass We shall bring you as a crowd gathered out of various nations.

      Qur’an 59:2 : He it is Who caused those who disbelieved of the followers of the Book (Jews) to go forth from their homes (leave their exile) till the first gathering (Li awalil hashr) you did not think that they would go forth, while they were certain that their fortresses would defend them against Allah; but Allah came to them whence they did not expect, and cast terror into their hearts; they demolished their houses with their own hands and the hands of the believers; therefore take a lesson, O you who have eyes!

      Reply to Comment
      • Leffe

        Thanks for the gibberish lesson.

        Reply to Comment
        • Qur'an

          What are you upset about, leffe? Speak, “leffe”, so we can know what truly vexes your heart.

          Reply to Comment
    7. Carmen

      It doesn’t make headlines like the deaths of 2 Jewish men, but “Ayman Shaaban, a 42-year-old cab driver from Lod who was murdered in Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016. Shaaban, a Bedouin father of 11 from Lod who worked for a taxi station at Ben Gurion Airport, was laid to rest on Sunday.” By Times of Israel staff January 4, 2016, 2:40 am

      Reply to Comment
      • Merkava

        The Muslim Arab terrorist used the cabbie Ayman Shabaan, a Bedouin Arab, to get away from the crime scene where he murdered Jews and then murdered him. Talking about being accurate and precise, you can’t get more accurate and precise like that.

        To be even more accurate,

        Shabaans death was not known at the time this article was written. You are not correct in your blame-game.

        You are quoting the Times Of Israel, while at the same time claiming that Shabaan’s murder is ignored in the media. You are incorrect in that regard, again.

        Shabaans’s murder was also reported in Yediot Ahronot, Jp, Ynet and Arutz Sheva.

        Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        CARMEN:”t doesn’t make headlines like the deaths of 2 Jewish men…”

        CARMEN:”…was laid to rest on Sunday.” By Times of Israel staff January 4, 2016, 2:40 am”

        By their own mouths….
        Their lies and distortions just keep coming. They are so used to lying that they have become careless and complacent about their one sided propaganda because they think that everyone is like them and they accept transparent one sided lies about Israel.

        But they are wrong. There are plenty of decent people in this world who know the score. And more and more people are waking up to the simplistic lies of Arabs and their cohorts.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Carmen

      Thanks for the information. I assumed the Times of Israel was the only one to report the murder of Mr. Shabaan; I’m glad I was wrong.

      Reply to Comment