A gunman opened fire in a small Bank Hapoalim branch in Beersheba on Monday,
killing four people before taking his own life.
The shooter, identified
as 40-year-old Itamar Alon, had reportedly been turned down a day earlier by the
bank when he tried to extend his credit line, because of a NIS 6,000 debt. After
returning to the bank, he shot to death bank manager Avner Cohen and deputy
manager Meir Zeitoun, shooting both multiple times before killing customers Anat
Even-Haim and Idan Schnitzer Sabari.
Cohen, the bank’s branch manager,
was 44 years old. He is survived by his wife and three children, aged six, 13
and 18. Prior to the shooting, he sent his aunt to another branch, and she said
that saved her life.
Zeitun turned 40 last week.
Even-Haim was the
mother of three children – an 11-year-old and four-year-old twins.
a Beersheba resident, was 22 years old.
After killing his four victims,
Alon then took employee Miriam Cohen hostage and dragged her into a bathroom,
Cohen told Channel 10 on Monday evening.
Cohen said that she pleaded with
the man not to harm her and that eventually he told her to turn around, at which
point she heard a gunshot.
Once she realized that Alon had killed
himself, she fled the bathroom into the arms of police outside the bank, Cohen
told Channel 10.
She said that initially she thought the shoot-out was a
terror attack, but after a few minutes, the assailant arrived and took her from
the main area of the bank into the bathroom.
“I asked him, ‘Please don’t
do anything to me,’ but he took me, he took me from there,” she said.
the assailant took her to the bathroom, Cohen alerted the police to her
“I took my phone and passed him so he wouldn’t hear me. I could
not breathe; I hoped someone would come and save me.”
“I spoke to him; I
said, ‘Please don’t hurt me, let’s leave.’ All the time I was talking to him and
I pleaded with him to speak with the police.”
Cohen is now recovering
from the incident in her family home.
Five people were injured in the
shooting, including one seriously, and four were treated for shock, Soroka
Hospital in Beersheba said.
There was no security guard at the bank, as
it is a small branch.
Alon is a Beersheba resident who served in the
Border Police for his national service, and reenlisted as an officer for an
additional year. The Border Police spokesperson clarified shortly after the
killing that Alon was “a citizen who served in the Border Patrol in the distant
past, 17 years ago for only one year. We request that you consider this and
present the incident as fits and not in a warped fashion that presents the force
in a negative way.”
The incident is the third fatal shooting attack
involving a current or former Border Police officer in the past seven months.
Last October, a 48-year-old border policeman shot his ex-wife to death in their
apartment in Bat Yam before shooting himself to death, and last Sunday a border
policeman shot his wife to death before taking his own life, also in Bat
Further details of Alon’s life that emerged by Monday evening
painted a picture of a man who had been involved in both personal and
professional disputes, as well as a moment of heroism for which he was publicly
hailed as a hero.
In 2011, Alon was involved in a dispute with his
neighbors, during which he was arrested. Afterward, police asked a Beersheba
court to strip him of his personal firearm, but the request was denied. Alon had
been issued a permit for the gun for his job as a security guard for the
Beersheba school system, and had kept the firearm even though he was fired from
the job in 2003. After his termination, Alon attempted to sue the city of
Beersheba, saying that he was terminated for “exposing corruption within the
In an incident in 2002, Alon ran to the site of a terror
attack at an IDF base in Beersheba, and shot and killed one of the terrorists.
For his heroism, Alon was given a commendation by the city.
Monday’s shooting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the
families of those killed, and called the incident a huge tragedy and a “terror
“I can’t remember events like this – at least not in recent
years. We can’t let a terror attack like this happen again,” he
“Something like this is so disgusting, we cannot just let it pass,”
said Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman, adding that fighting crime
is like fighting terror.
“We have to reach the right conclusions so these
events don’t happen again,” Liberman said.
Sam Sokol and Jerusalem Post
staff contributed to this report.